How do you know if you’re good at accepting change?

How do you know if you're good at atI’m changing things up with this blog post to talk about change, and how do you know if you’re good at accepting it? There’s been a lot of it in my life these days, and I have learned that the only thing constant in my work-life and personal life is change. This is a notion I’ve come to realize through not-so-easy practice and adoption.

Right out of college in 2008, I was able to score a job in San Francisco working for a legal publishing company. It was unfathomable that I was able to get a job in June of 2008 right as the “bubble” was bursting and all hell was breaking loose, but I did. It wasn’t a great paying job (I made more as a nanny in college), but I looked at it as a step in the right direction – everyone has that one job right out of college right? However, the two years I spent at the publishing company I saw very little turnover in staff. I think this was due in part to how bad the economy had gotten. So, when I left the publishing company I was under the false notion that people stayed at their jobs for a long time – I had always stayed with an employer for more than 2 or 3 years.

When I was made the offer at the utility I work for now the opportunity was above and beyond what I had ever imagined. My salary was doubled, the benefits were fantastic, I was a year into grad school at that point in my life, and they offered tuition reimbursement. I had stars in my eyes! When I told the publisher I had accepted this unbelievable offer and I was giving her my two weeks, I’ll never forget what she asked me, “Do you not like it here? Are you not happy?” It never occurred to me that she might think that was the only reason I was leaving. I told her honestly that I loved working there, but what this other company was offering me was impossible for her to counter – at this point it wasn’t just the benefits but it was also the opportunity to further my career. That seemed to make sense to her, but I left feeling like I had just broken up with someone – it seemed so personal.

As you can imagine, that only added to my notion of “people don’t just leave,” and “people stay when they’re happy,” and “seeing the same people every day for two years is normal.” Boy was I wrong and tad naive!

I would say a short month into my position at the utility, the person who on-boarded me and was essentially my lifeline was leaving the organization with the Director she was supporting, who was being promoted to VP. That was my very first experience with change. I felt like I handled that one fairly well – I made friends with others who I knew I could reach out to with questions, and I was starting to get the hang of things so it was OK.

I stayed on that team for two years and within those two years, I went from supporting 3 directors, to one and I saw the team turnover about 85 percent. Instead of embracing the changes, I worried and questioned whether it was the leadership, or the work etc., as opposed to wondering if that type of change was normal and to be expected.

Eventually it was my time to move on and everyone was really excited for me. This was a very welcomed change for I was the one initiating it. I’ve learned over the years, that the changes which impact you the most are the ones you can’t control at all. These past 12 months alone have been the most change I have ever experienced and also the most challenging year of my career.

  1. I left a position I had been in for 3 1/2 years. It was a change I was making, and in hindsight I realize I was scared to make it but went for it anyway. The following impactful things happened : I attended my first staff meeting on the new team to find out the person who hired me was no longer going to be my boss. Shock of my life! I decided to make the best of it and roll with the punches. It was a rough go at first but I managed to figure out how to make the best out of a less than ideal situation – and still learn something.
  2. At almost my 1 year mark my entire company went through a major layoff – having to say goodbye to people I had worked with for many years was extremely hard.
  3. The manager whom I had worked so hard to establish a relationship with (and had finally established a decent one) announced she was retiring – this occurred about 2 weeks after the layoffs.
  4. Simultaneously I was in the process of interviewing for another position within the company – and I’m excited to say I accepted the position and will be embarking on yet another change – though at least I initiated this one!
  5. To top things off, while I’m transitioning my current work over to the person back filling for me, we found out our director and fearless leader would be leaving the company.

The changing tide was strong over these last 12 months. The strangest thing to come out of all of this is that I feel calm and I think I have finally come to terms with the fact that this is normal. Because I never thought I was good at dealing with change, I decided to look up some articles published and other thoughts around dealing with change (my sources are cited at the end of this post):

  1. Don’t stress out about stressing out – Our reaction to stress has a greater impact on our health and success than the stress itself. I learned this in two situations just this year. The first was my “freak out” moment when I realized my boss was not going to be my boss. My instinct was to call HR and rescind my acceptance – that was me stressing out about the stress that might come with having to establish another new connection with someone.
  2. Don’t expect stability – Expect these changes as a part of your story, rather than a tragic thing that will ruin your life. I’ve had to practice not being shocked over this past year, but I think eventually you just come to expect that everything is always going to be changing.
  3. You’re prepared – Those who live in a constant state of readiness are unfazed by change and step easily into what’s next. They don’t victimize themselves by wishing for different circumstances. They capitalize on change by having the foresight to be prepared for what’s headed their way. Remember, success will depend on your ability and willingness to adapt, not on everything staying the same. Plus, don’t we all agree that when everything stays the same it eventually gets stale and boring?
  4. You can re-frame – Visionaries don’t see their situations as a challenge, they see them as an opportunity even if they aren’t sure what the opportunity will be. Though I had the rug pulled out from under me when I found out my boss was not going to be my boss, I had to re-frame what was happening. I kept telling myself that as bad as it may have seemed at the time, I would be learning and taking something away from my experience.
  5. You give yourself permission to fail – Change means risk, which can be tough for the ego to handle if it’s been built upon a false premise that failure is or was never an option. I kept feeling like I made the wrong move 12 months ago, but I gave myself permission for it to be OK that I maybe didn’t make the most ideal career move. But quite frankly, we can’t always hit it out of the ball park.
  6. You move on from your mistakes with confidence – Do what you can to fix it, learn from the situation and how to do it better next time. Failure becomes a teachable moment that is a step toward self-growth, not their identity. Though I had a rough year, I’m leaving it with confidence because I took the curve balls thrown at me and tried my best to hit it out of the park (can you tell I’m a baseball fan!?)

I now find myself embarking on yet another change – of my doing – that I’m very excited about. I will be staying with my company, but leaving the organization I’ve called home for the past 4 1/2 years to join a team where I don’t know anyone, and become apart of an organization that I know nothing about. BUT, I’m excited, I’m embracing the change and I’m more optimistic about this move than I have been in a long time.

I will leave you all with this: every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind – the goal is to find it. I hope that what I’ve shared today will inspire thought around how you deal with change, what you could be doing to deal with it better, or to simply reaffirm and encourage you to continue accepting change in the ways that work best for you.

Ciao!

Nikki

Sources:

Harvard Business Review: “How to get better at dealing with change” by nick Tasler – September 21, 2016

The Huffington Post: “Saying ‘yes’ to what’s next – 4 signs you are a master at handling change” by Cy Wakeman – April 26, 2015

Losing Motivation: And understanding why

It’s been a month since my last blog entry. I’m embarrassed that it has been so long. I had such a good, dependable cadence going, and then I lost motivation. Of course what followed next was nagging at myself and creating an even bigger setback because I was falling further and further away from actually opening the laptop. But, what I really needed to do was ask myself why I was suddenly so unmotivated?

I’ve thought about this a lot the last few weeks – what triggered my non-motivation? I could only narrow it to one specific incident, and it happened at work. Isn’t it interesting? I took up blogging because I was lacking the opportunity to write in my new job, and yet that new job has impacted and derailed my ability to write for the past month? It all struck so suddenly – I have referred to it as being blind sided.

Some of my readers may know, but some of you may not – I have been struggling in my new job. Initially – say the first couple of months – I chalked my struggles up to learning new things, working with new people and different personalities, and just overall dealing with change. But as month 4 approached I was beginning to feel like I was barely keeping my head above water. I had gone from “OK, I’m learning new things, there’s some room here for me to feel uneasy and unsure,” to “Holy Mother of God – I think I’m going to cry in the middle of this meeting!” Now, if you asked any of my friends or family…I DO NOT cry at work. I have always followed the philosophy that while work is important, it’s not so important that it deserves an emotion from me such as crying. I would get up and walk around the block out of frustration before I would ever let myself have a good cry at work.

But then it happened. My face got really hot, my heart started racing, and I was booking it to the bathroom so that I could have the most unsatisfying cry I’ve ever experienced in my life. I needed to really let loose, but because I was at work I had this weird sob in the bathroom stall – so needless to say, that still left me feeling awful.

Generally my disposition is upbeat, happy and overall friendly. So when I was asked how things were going I tried to be upbeat and convey that everything was fine. This person knows me well from past work experiences, and called me on my BS immediately and set up time for us to chat. I expressed that I was feeling a lack of direction from my boss. I realized that I wasn’t actually being managed. I was floundering and it was scary. I had never been in a situation like this before. The conversation with my co-worker was really great and completely reset how I was feeling.

Fast forward a couple of months (like month 6), and I was starting to feel like things were no longer working so great, upon which there was some re-organization and a change in management for my team. With the changes, I was asked to meet with some folks for coffee to get a pulse check on how things are going, what I think we could do as a team to improve etc. Again, another very motivating encounter, and I was feeling really good.

This was a false sense of motivation because shortly after that coffee I got sucker punched. Actually, I have called it sucker punched in the gut and then immediately struck across the face (figuratively speaking of course). That’s what it felt like. I had been working from home one afternoon and had a call to discuss some deliverables. The call was great. I could tell that clearer direction was being given in regards to how the team should work, and where we should be concentrating our time and efforts. I was feeling like there might be some hope for this job and me after all!

Then, the conversation took a weird turn. I was told that there had been some talk about whether I was the right fit for the job, that maybe I’m in over my head, and that I didn’t know what I was doing…I will hold now for your stunned reaction. I was floored. I asked where this feedback had come from because I was surprised to hear something like that. The response was, “I heard it from a couple of people.”

Since this happened at the very end of our call, and I had another call immediately after, I had to cut it short. I hung up and proceeded to dial into my next call – with a consultant – not even someone on my team. I told her I was sorry for calling late and that I had been on a previous call. She asked me how the call went, and I lost it. I started crying. I started crying on a conference call with a consultant. I mean, who does that? Her response was very sweet, and she sounded shocked, and I was more than embarrassed, I was mortified. I gave her an idea as to what had me so upset, but really I hadn’t even had a chance to wrap my mind around what I had just been told. As you can imagine, that call ended fairly quickly.

Once I had a moment to think about things I realized that I couldn’t walk around the office the next day thinking that people had that kind of opinion about my experience and my capability to do the job. My company encourages speaking up/out about incidents and issues that are inappropriate. I realized that what I had experienced was inappropriate. I took inventory of what had gone wrong in that conversation:

1. I was given feedback on performance over the phone – that in itself is inappropriate

2. When I asked where such feedback came from I was given a very vague response, when the appropriate thing would have been to give me examples of when someone could have walked away with that opinion of me and how I could fix it

3. The feedback I was provided didn’t match the mid-year review I had just had the previous week, upon which I was successful and on target for the year

I decided that I needed to escalate the issue. This was hard for me to decide to do, which may seem silly initially, but I had never been in a situation like that, and it was very upsetting for me. What if I escalate this, and find out that people actually think that about my capability to do the job?! What if I’m told that I must have misunderstood the conversation? There were so many things running through my head. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I decided to escalate via email. I was nervous.

About 10 minutes after I sent the email my cell phone rang. I was impressed, I was expecting to receive a response via email. The information I had relayed was important enough for a phone call. Needless to say, what I had been told about my performance was not how the rest of the team was feeling and I was assured it would be addressed.

In the meantime, I reached out to the person who has been my mentor from the start (heck, he hired me!) and he always has the best advice. He told me to start looking for a new position, and in the meantime that I needed to work like a rock star even more to ensure that NO ONE would ever believe that something like that could be said about me. He then did what he does so well, and asked me what I was doing as an outlet to work through this. He can be very introspective, and wanted to take my thoughts off of this crappy thing that had clearly derailed me, and so he asked me how I’m coping with it. I told him I started a blog and then at that very moment, I realized that I hadn’t posted anything since the incident. It was an “ah-hah” moment. He made me realize that I was letting what had happened impact the good things that I was doing for myself. Not only had I been unmotivated to write, but I realized I wasn’t working out as regularly and overall had started feeling really down on myself.

Work is work. I have always had the ability to separate the two. This experience has tested me in many ways. It has tested my ability to speak up and stand up for myself. It has tested my confidence – I know that I’m not that person that was described to me on the phone. It has tested my ability to forgive – I still need to work with this person (closely) on a regular basis, and it tested my ability to take a look outside of my feelings (which BTW were haunting and never stopped) and identify why I was feeling the way I was. It made me realize how it was impacting me physically, mentally and emotionally, and what I needed to do to fix it.

Hence, why I’m sharing it with all of you. I went back and forth on this. Is it sharing too much? Some of my readers are co-workers, should I filter myself more? I decided no. I decided that I’m not the only one who has struggled with situations such as this and that sharing is always good and opens the opportunity to communicate and know that you aren’t alone.

So, in the meantime I write on. I kicked my motivational road block to the curb and I’m trying to keep calm through the work-storm I have found myself in. This too, shall pass.