Why change is like a knock on the door (and how to greet it)

Change, I’ve decided, is like a random dude who turns up on my front doorstep.

Sometimes he arrives with a polite knock, giving me time to get myself together and meet him best-foot-forward, lipstick intact. At other times, he bashes down my front door like a toddler on a sugar-fueled rampage. My all-time FAVOURITE way he rocks up is when he’s a cheerful courier delivering an unexpected package of goodness to my doorstep.

But it’s not all roses and special deliveries. Sometimes he turns up in the middle of the night, his sombre knock bringing me the news I can’t bear to hear but know I must face. I do not always greet change well, but I am learning to expect him to knock on my door – and often.

Whichever way change shows up in your life, show up he will. Again, and again. Here are four things I’m learning about how to handle a surprise visit from the dude at the doorstep:

  1. Get to know your default response to change. Some of us love change and get bored if things aren’t constantly new and different. Restructuring? That spells opportunity. Change in direction? Bring it on. For others amongst us, our natural predilection is for a more routine life with less blindsiding, thank you very much. There’s no right or wrong way to feel about change, our feelings are valid whatever they are, but knowing your own natural response to change is an important first step to leading yourself and others successfully through it. If you’re a leader, knowing how others in your team respond to change is handy and helpful too.
  2. Know that change is constant. This is the way the world rolls. This is an easy concept to get your head around in theory, but more difficult to grasp when you’re faced with yet another restructuring. Some of the most painful experiences in my life have been because I’ve clung to something (or someone), thinking ‘this is how it will always be’ and missing the writing on the wall. Help your team become ‘change ready’ by framing change as a constant, inevitable part of (organisational) life – and the conversation can then turn to how to best navigate it.
  3. Don’t ignore change when it comes along. You may want to bury your head under the covers for a moment or two, but don’t ignore what is happening. If you want to run a million miles in the other direction, that’s probably your cue to do the opposite and greet change as best you can – often by planning what’s to come.
  4. Remember ‘this too shall pass’. I used to think this saying was for when you’re going through tough changes, but I now realise it has just as much relevance to those beautiful and wondrous moments in life. When it comes to leadership, this means celebrating successes and milestones when they happen and never missing an opportunity to value someone for a great job or for putting in effort into an important team goal.

While change can sometimes show up as an unwanted visitor in times when we least expect it, these can often be the moments when we need to greet him with open arms in order to grow and become a better leader and person.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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