by Stephen Kukucha
It can put the fear of god in you or make you jump for joy. It can be fleeting, like the daily ups and downs of life or the stock market, or permanent, like the untimely death of Prince or the end of a life partnership.
It can affect every aspect of your life, be it personal, business or politics—and often all three at once.
It can come at you suddenly without warning, like the devastating Fort McMurray wildfire, or you can see it on the horizon a mile away, like an upcoming wedding.
As the Greek philosopher Heraclitis pointed out more than 2,500 years ago, change is the only constant in our lives.
Personally, there was a time when I was fairly confident about my ability to seamlessly
navigate change and disruption. I had experienced a lot of personal and professional change and had successfully completed training in “change management” during my management consulting days.
Upon reflection, I realize that my approach may not have been as expansive as it could have been and it was better to actually embrace change and proactively move forward through it (as opposed to often ignoring its immediate consequences). I was neglecting the brilliant opportunity that change provides to grow and expand.
Now, as I traverse the changes in my life, and work with my clients to help them manage the change in their businesses, I am on the lookout for ways to leverage the upsides of transitions, even when circumstances seem overwhelming. To quote the great Winston Churchill: “To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.”
A four-step plan to maintain momentum through change
Listen. Many of us struggle to listen, but it is the first step in understanding not just the impact of change, but the opportunity it presents. Listen to your gut, your employees, your partner, your clients, your shareholders—to anyone who has something valuable to say
Learn. Do everything you can to understand the context of your situation: research data points, seek out advisors, ask questions, find perspective. Stop when you have enough information. The trick is to find the balance between being sufficiently informed and paralysis by analysis.
Respond. Shift and create a new environment to move forward in. Don’t get stuck in a prescribed paradigm. As Frank Underwood from House of Cards would say, “If you don’t like how the table is set, turn over the table.”
Recalibrate. Change is inevitable; even your reaction to change must be nimble and dynamic. Always be on the look out for ways to tweak or pivot your response and path.
From a business and management perspective, these steps have been the backbone of many Silicon Valley and disruptive technology successes.
Noted venture capitalist Joe Lacob leveraged the lessons he learned restructuring companies to transform his losing Golden State Warriors from one of the worst teams in the NBA to a deep and talented squad with the best single-season record in the league’s history.
This New York Times Magazine article highlights how Lacob dismantled and then rebuilt the Warriors, creating the change that allowed the team to achieve dramatic success in both the athletic (the Warriors play Portland in Game 3 of the Conference Semifinals against the Portland Trail Blazers this Saturday) and commercial spheres.
You may not be managing the turnaround of a multi-million dollar enterprise or professional sports team, but you are facing changes that might feel just as overwhelming and significant.
Accepting that change is not just inevitable, but the most powerful catalyst for growth, is the first step to thriving through whatever surprises life throws your way.
Wazuku Principal Stephen Kukucha is a lawyer, business consultant, political advisor, sports fan and entrepreneur.