Change…Then and Now

A bit off the path of regular business…

I have been fortunate in my life and career in that at a very young and impressionable age I was introduced to Change. “Mr. C” as I sometimes call him made a brash and unannounced entry into my world when I was a lad of maybe 11 or 12 years old.

I remember distinctly the moment. As the oldest of 6 kids, I of course felt responsible for many weighty and serious things, that it was my duty to help ensure things went smooth for the family, that I set a good example for my younger sibs. This meant doing things like chores around the house or making personal sacrifices to enable the greater good. For a 12 year old, it translated into earning my own money by cutting grass and being happy to have hand-me-downs from the cousins.

Of course being the oldest also had its benefits. I usually got to ride up front in the family 9 passenger VW Microbus with Dad, while Mom tended to the rest of the family in the back two rows of seats (yes, I managed to grow up in a perilous, front seat environment, and lived to tell about it).

All was well in my idyllic world when on one of our many trips, Mom announced she was pregnant. Again. Personally, I had about had it with adding kids to the family. I told Mom and Dad that this was a bad idea, that we didn’t have room for another kid and we certainly didn’t have the spare money. I stopped short of telling them to put it up for adoption, although the thought did cross my mind, and I even rehearsed a speech about it.

I was really upset about this turn of events as it was going to take even more work on my part to make sure things went smooth, and here I was 12 and a half years old, almost a teenager, and starting to think that girls were not all that bad. What were they thinking? Didn’t they understand how this would impact me and my world?

Mom smiled as she always did when she was pregnant, and had that beautiful look that all pregnant women have when they know they are carrying a new life within them. She said a new baby was a “…gift from God…” and would be a wonderful addition to our family. Dad, being the engineer and all, was much more pragmatic. “What’s the big deal? Our VW is a 9 passenger anyhow and we have an empty seat”. He then went on to talk about dinner or Steeler’s footbal or something, and I was left to stew in my own pre-teen juices.

It was at that precise moment I came to meet and begin to know Mr. C. Mr. C. taught me that no matter how bad an idea I thought this was, no matter how it might impact me, no matter how misguided my parents were, it was going to happen and I had to deal with it. More importantly, it was up to me to decide how I was going to deal with it and react to it.

It is a lesson in life I value today, particularly during the volatile business times we find ourselves in. During the past few years, I have seen colleagues out of work, companies merge or go under, and the nature of my industry change substantially as many of the skills that were highly valued yesterday become commoditized. You can fight it, you can deny it, and sometimes you can hide from it. But the best thing to do is recognize it, adjust, and adapt.

For example, my own company was recently acquired by a much larger, global staffing and services firm, a leader in the world market. This means many things for me and my team. More resources to draw on, more experiences, more services we can offer, more opportunity for career growth. It also means, new processes and bureaucracy we have to follow, more rules and guidelines we need to adhere to, a new office and location to move to, and probably a hundred other things that impact the world in which me and my team live.

I see some people in other organizations face change like this, and run and hide. Or they stalwartly deny it or secretly subvert it. And in the process, they make themselves and those surrounding them miserable through their actiions and attitudes.

Yet, I see others that consistently prosper and rise to the occasion. Perhaps they disagree with the direction their firm or industry is headed in, and they switch to something better aligned to their beliefs. Others accept change openly and figure out how to successfully play the hand that is given them. In either case, the folks that prosper when their world changes are those that recognize it and leverage it to drive their actions.

With every change, there are things we learn and ways in which we grow that help us be better leaders, parents, co-workers, and people. The upside of accepting and dealing with change is always way better than the downside of resisting it. Sure, there’s some downside at times. Comp plans may change and maybe initially not for the better. Roles and responsibilities get shuffled around, and sometimes you lose the “front seat of the bus”. At the same time, these are the things that make us “stretch our muscles” and become stronger professionals.

If I have learned nothing else, sometimes Mr. C walks in the door and makes himself right at home without being asked. It’s my choice whether to welcome him to the family, avoid him, or try to throw him out.

Much like what happened when my kid brother was announced to a 12 year old many years ago.

Make your reaction to change count in a positive manner.