by Leigh Ann Gowland, founder of Employee Driven Change
Any reason could motivate you to improve your physical fitness: a new year’s resolution, a personal goal, a special occasion or a health scare. You may prepare an exercise schedule, eating plan, employ a personal trainer or partner with an exercise buddy to achieve your fitness goals. Besides physical fitness is not only beneficial to your health, it improves your mood, memory, attention span and improves your overall productivity and energy to support you in your demanding role as an entrepreneur.
The return on investment in your health reflects on your business. In the same way, I believe we owe it to ourselves and our businesses to develop a change fitness to prepare for the constant change we face.
What I mean by change fitness?
I am sure we have all experienced unusual tiredness after completing a new or occasional activity like facilitating a workshop once a year, conducting a full day of interviews or attending hours of mandatory training. However, when completing these activities regularly you develop a comfort or fitness and become energized by the activity. In the same way if you deal with change regularly you become more flexible and nimble when confronted with unplanned change. The process of navigating change helps you to develop skills in recognizing change triggers, managing the change and mitigating potential risks to proactively respond to change.
Why should you develop a change fitness?
Change is inevitable in life but essential to business. In the fast-moving world you may be continuously monitoring changes and trends in your industry or market, but new concepts, products or ideas are introduced every day from unexpected sources. We cannot predict and prepare for every possible change and the impact on our business in advance. We need to improve how we respond to sudden, unpredictable change.
How to develop change fitness?
Like all training, practice is essential to developing change fitness. Not all runners train in the same way for a marathon. There are common practices and advice from experts on how to train but individual runners eventually develop a personalized plan that best suits them. In the same way your journey to change fitness will be shaped by your personality, style, influencers, environment and history.
To help prepare your change fitness plan I have included some common change practices to APPLY.
Running upstairs or playing with pets or children commonly trigger recognition of lack of physical fitness and inspire action to improve our exercise routines. Similarly, continuous vigilance for possible change triggers is a valuable skill in change fitness. If you recognise change triggers in the early stages of the change this allows more time to prepare for the change. Introduce a daily habit to read articles, watch videos, listen to podcasts or speak to experts in an innovative or disruptive field searching for possible change triggers which may impact you or your business.
Sticking to your exercise or diet plan is often easiest when the goal is clear and important to you. Continuous change from a variety of sources can be overwhelming. Be selective of the changes that are relevant to your business. Why is the change being introduced? Could the impact of the change affect my personal or business performance? Taking fifteen minutes to research something new to determine the objectives could save time wasted on unnecessary preparation or help prioritise the urgency of the change.
Stationary bicycle in a gym, spinning classes, road cycling or off-road biking illustrates the range of options available in bicycle exercise and individuals have a preferred activity based on their goals, schedule and personal health. How you experience change is personal and may differ according to the type of change and how it is introduced. Those who embrace technology are usually excited about constant developments in technology and cannot understand the resistance from others to the change. However, these individuals may resist procedural or environmental changes. Taking time to reflect on your personal response to selected changes will help you understand your personal change style and change triggers. Changes which provoke negative responses for you should be identified early to allow for additional preparation.
When a new exercise craze is introduced we all go out to try it. How do you know it works if you don’t try? The same applies to developing a change fitness. Do not be afraid to try something new at the risk of possibly failing. By continuously trying something new you are stretching your comfort zone. If you fail, you learn more about yourself and your change readiness. Speculating about the impact of a change from behind your computer is safer but it doesn’t provide you unique experience on the practicality of the change in your context.
Personal fitness is measured throughout your training journey and by achievement of your goals. These measurements are aligned to what you hope to achieve. Measurement helps to maintain focus and commitment. When planning your change fitness consider the business and personal results that may be improved by your adaptability to change. Measurement could be very personal such as how quickly you identify and accept changes which previously would have paralyzed you. Change fitness could also be assessed against on business metrics such as issue resolution or response to customer demands. Benchmark your measurements early in your change fitness journey and compare periodic measures to monitor progress or learnings.
Return on investment in change fitness may not be currently quantifiable but the need for agility and adaptability is being increasingly recognized in businesses. Start by testing the effects of change fitness on your personal productivity and business performance. Adaptability may become your differentiator.
Leigh Ann Gowland is an independent change management consultant and the founder of Employee Driven Change, and assists companies with large change initiatives while making change work for individuals. With fifteen years of experience in change management, human resources, and workforce transformation, she understands individual and business change across industries, projects and corporate cultures. Her approach to consulting and coaching styles is informed by Systems Theory and her passion for empowering others to understand and drive change and apply these skills.
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