Modern Mentor

How to keep up when everything is changing

Episode Summary

Let’s talk about ways we can not just make peace with the constancy of change, but find ways to use it to fuel our collective ability to excel.

Episode Notes

Change, as they say, has become the new normal. But old ways of working—setting goals, building skills—are hard to maintain in the face of so many switches and pivots. How can we feel momentum at work in the face of so much change?

Modern Mentor is hosted by Rachel Cooke. A transcript is available at Simplecast.

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Episode Transcription

Hey, it’s Rachel Cooke, your Modern Mentor. I’m the founder of Lead Above Noise—a firm specializing in helping teams and organizations create better working experiences that deliver better results.

Pretty early in 2020, I started getting a lot of questions about how to manage through change. You know—because of the world kind of flipping upside down thing. At the time, I’m pretty sure I thought it was a moment. And the moment would pass and things would settle and change would be less in our faces.

Adorable, right? I mean—the changes we’re wading through today are different than a few years ago. But the pace of change? The constancy of it? The feeling of stability being a thing of the past? It’s still present for many of us. And we’re all just trying to catch our breath.

So let’s talk about ways we can not just make peace with the constancy of change, but find ways to use it to fuel our collective ability to excel.

1.   Acknowledge that change is hard

In the 1960s, a researcher named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross conducted and published research still cited to this day about the 5 stages of grief. You’ve probably heard of them: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

What we owe it to ourselves to remember is that the change curve—the one that experts in change management and leadership use to educate organizations about leading through change—is built on top of those stages.

In other words, the human experience of change mimics our experience of grief. That doesn’t mean all change is tragic—not at all.

But change—even the good kind, the kind we’ve chosen and are excited about—involves an ending. The need to say goodbye to the old in order to make space for the new.

It’s not always bad. But it may be hard. And if your team or organization has been weathering a whole lot of changes…before you head into action mode, I want you to offer yourself just a bit of kindness and grace.

Change is hard. The human spirit prefers to know what’s coming. We want things to feel the same. So we need to start with cutting ourselves a break. Accept that it’s hard but we need to do it anyway. And this self-kindness opens us up, preparing us to move through change.

2.   Stay connected

I talk a lot about the power of connection—of building relationships and cultivating networks.

These connections serve us in many ways. One of which is helping us prepare for—and manage through—change.

Having regular, open dialog with others in your team, organization, or industry who are having similar experiences of change can help you feel less alone. It can also help you identify strategies for managing through, for processing the changes, making sense of them.

Like, imagine you’re in the airline industry. In recent years, there’ve been changes around masking and vaccination requirements, staffing shortages, and heightened customer demand. I can’t imagine what working in that space has felt like.

But for those who are—I hope you’re finding comfort in connecting with each other. Sharing tips on how you stay up to date, or how you’ve managed to calm angry or disappointed customers.  So helpful.

There’s so much value in learning with—and from—peers experiencing exactly what you are.  

3.   Attach to impact over initiative

Sometimes I talk to people who complain that as soon as they start a new thing, the wind changes direction and suddenly their leadership wants something different.

And I get it. It can be so demeaning to put your thought and energy into a piece of work that suddenly becomes unimportant. Because we become attached to our work. And it can be hard to let go.

If this is something you’ve faced, then try changing your focus from the thing you were working on to the outcome you’re contributing to.

Like let’s say your company is really focused on increasing the profitability of a certain product. That’s the outcome.

Now let’s say you get assigned a project to analyze customer behavior around that product. And you’ve rolled up your sleeves and it’s just getting good. And suddenly your boss says “Never mind—set that aside. Instead, I’d like you to focus on finding all the ways we can cut cost out of production.”

If your initial reaction is “Are you kidding? I was just getting going!”, I don’t blame you. But instead of focusing on the end of one project and the beginning of another, try to focus on how this is just a new road to the same destination—increasing profitability.

If you can find a bit of consistency, it can make navigating the change a bit more palatable.

4.   Push the agenda

You know the old saying—if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Look friend. Change really is here to stay. So you can resist it. Or you can get on board and start to get ahead of the curve.

What small actions can you take to begin to look around, to watch what’s happening, to read or consume info that might help you spot trends? Who can you be networking with that could feed you insight?

Sometimes it’s not the fact of change that throws us—but the suddenness. The unexpectedness of it.

So how can you get yourself just a little more in-the-know?

Find industry publications, listen to podcasts, find free webinars or events in your space.

There are so many experts out there vying to make names for themselves. I promise, whatever field you’re in, there are countless free and low-cost reads and events that can get you readier than ever for the changes coming up next.

5.   Learn like a machine

OK. So my understanding of machine learning is kind of like my dad’s understanding of social media. Um, not impressive. But I think it goes something like this: we feed lots and lots of info and data into these machines. And the more we feed them, the more they begin to spot patterns and trends, and the smarter they get. Right?

Anyway, this is how I like to encourage people to approach change. Yes—look up and look ahead. But also look behind you.

What have the last few years taught you? We can only spot trends in the rearview. So if you take a look over your shoulder, maybe you can see that…

·  The transition from summer into fall has an impact on your customer behavior that no one has spotted yet

·  Team members in a certain function or geography tend to experience overwhelm when a certain set of circumstances present

·  Customer service tends to get lots of calls when the economy shifts in a certain direction

Get curious about the past few years. Chances are, there’s some overlooked intelligence in there waiting to be tapped. And once it is, all those seemingly unexpected changes might start to feel a little more predictable.

Join me next week for another great episode. Until then, visit my website at if your organization is looking to dial up its Employee Experience or deliver some leadership development that activates change. You can follow Modern Mentor on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Find and follow me on LinkedIn. Thanks so much for listening and have a successful week.