Look for opportunity in the midst office changes

The makers of antacid remedies must be doing a booming business. If you peek into just about any company in America today, you are bound to see and hear the symptoms of anxiety and change. Do any of these situations sound familiar?

·        You’ve struggled with learning how to use a computer. You’ve finally figured out how to hunt and peck your way around the system. Now your manager has told you that your department is switching to new software next month.

·        Yesterday, you found out that your job was being changed. Instead of taking customer orders on the phone, you are now going to be expected to sell services, too. You don’t think you have the personality to sell. You are afraid you won’t be able to cut it in this new job.

·        The company you work for has been acquired by an out-of-town conglomerate. You suspect that your company is going to be downsized. You’re fearful that you will be out on the street.

You can almost hear the stomachs knot up, can’t you? As you read through the above scenarios did you react with fear or did you think about potential opportunity? Over the years, I have noticed a pattern of behavior among people who seem to be able to succeed, in spite of significant change and challenges. They have resilience, a tough inner fiber, and an attitude. The one quality they share? They tend to look for opportunity in every situation.

Someone once told me that in the Chinese language, the symbol for the word "crisis" is a compound word made up of "danger" and "opportunity." In Western culture, "crisis" is more commonly associated with danger than with anything else. From my experience, I think the Chinese have it right.

Fear oriented people tend to view change as a threat. They want to maintain the status quo and stay safe and secure. They are fearful that they will lose power or control. They worry that they will look incompetent. Their ego suffers if they think they are losing the competence or credibility they’ve fought so hard to get in the old system. They tend to avoid it by shutting down, digging in, finding fault or keeping their heads low.

So what do the opportunists do? After all, change isn’t easy for them, either. Sure, they pine for the old way. Sure, they question and complain. But before long, when they realize the change is here to stay, they shift gears. Here is what they ask themselves:

·        What adjustment in attitude or approach do I need?

·        What excites me about these changes?

·        What are some new services or talents I might be able to offer?

·        How could these changes be maximized to improve productivity?

·        How could I use resources more wisely?

·        What can I do to improve communication about these changes?

·        How can I get involved and have some control over the way the changes progress?

·        What new skills should I develop?

·        What new things do I want to learn and accomplish?

·        What new relationships will I be able to build?

·        Where do we need some creativity?

·        How can I get some recognition for what I contribute?

·        Am I keeping my sense of humor?

·        Who can help me? (And how can I help someone else?)

·        What can I learn from this process?

·        What’s the worst that can happen and am I prepared for it?

One of the most important things an opportunist does is to keep two goals in focus: his or her personal and job goals, as well as the goals of the organization. They don’t take a myopic, "Hey, what about me?" stance. Rather, opportunists try to take a step back and figure out what the organization is trying to accomplish with the changes. Then, they try to figure out if there is any way they can help the organization reach its goals, while helping their own careers.

Ironically, people who resist change often think that opportunists are "naïve" or "kissing up" or "siding with management." While that may be true for some, the opportunists are doing nothing of the sort. They have made a strategic decision to maximize their role in the change process. Make no mistake. If opportunists find that their personal goals can no longer be met within the new environment, they either find a way to restructure their jobs or they leave for new ones. In any event, their resume has been built in the process.

You may think, "Where’s their loyalty to the company? That approach sounds pretty selfish to me." Maybe. But it’s also realistic. In order to buy-in to any change, we must first ask ourselves, "What’s in it for me?" Once we are convinced that we have something to gain, we change our behavior. Few adults will ever budge until they can answer that question on any new venture. What sets opportunists apart is their ability to proactively identify what is to be gained before the rest of us have figured it out. That’s why they take advantage of the situation before the rest of us have cleared our heads of all the reasons why something won’t work.

Can people learn to be opportunists? I think so. But it takes a commitment to changing our mindset about new things. It means we need to stop our impulse to focus on what is wrong and to look for what is right, for the organization and for ourselves.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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