by Barbara Kay, MA, LPC, RCC
Barbara Kay, MA, LPC, RCC, is a business psychologist and productivity coach serving professionals, organizations, and industry partners through coaching, consulting, and speaking. Her publications include numerous articles and two books, The Top Performer's Guide to Change and The $14 Trillion Woman, the industry's leading work on reaching and engaging women investors. She is a frequent speaker for regional and national financial services organizations, industry partners, and associations. Learn more at www.barbarakaycoaching.com.
Timing is everything! When I was writing the The Top Performer's Guide to Change, the markets were doing great. The mood of financial professionals and investors was optimistic. At that time, the challenges of change did not feel particularly relevant.
Since then, we've had a long period of volatility and uncertainty. Today, it's hard to remember those feelings happy confidence, let alone embrace them. The emotion of the moment, either positive or negative, is a powerful force that strongly influences perceptions, actions, and ultimately outcomes. As we look forward to FPA Retreat 2013 with the theme of Change: Surviving It, Managing It, Creating It, it's a good time to focus on three top tips for top performing in change.
Tip 1: Stop
Sometimes our natural response is the worst thing we can do and will make matters much worse. Jamming on the brakes when you hit a patch ice driving in the winter is just one example of a very natural response that will lead to a much worse disaster. Resisting the natural is the most productive thing to do. The same is true with change. During times of change, people automatically focus on potential losses and difficulties. Though completely normal, this natural reaction can promote unproductive negativity and defensiveness. If unchecked, it can lead to personal and professional disaster.
The first key to thriving in change is to stop the natural tendency to focus on the negatives. This sounds simple, but it takes discipline as the situation evolves and more changes unfold. Resisting the normal pull to pessimism is a powerful foundation for success.
Top 2: Look Forward
Recently, I spoke to a professional-let's call him Joe- dealing with sudden and significant changes in his organization. There was a lot of uncertainty for Joe. Understandably, he was concerned and initially relayed all the negatives. After shifting the focus away from the negatives and probing for opportunities, a different reality emerged. The current disruption will actually create a golden opportunity not available before. If Joe continued to focus on what might happen to him, he probably would have missed what was unfolding for him.
The research is conclusive. People who focus on positives feel much more optimistic and achieve better outcomes. In addition, research on luck has shown that "lucky" people don't receive more opportunities than "unlucky" people, but lucky people notice and pursue more of the opportunities that arise. Look forward for opportunities, and then develop a personal plan.
Tip 3: Focus on Basics
During change it's good to have a plan but better to have a good plan. But how to plan when the future is completely uncertain? The answer: Focus on basics. Change is like a hike. Good hikers don't carry multiple tools for every possible situation. That's completely impractical. Instead, they carry a multi-purpose tool, a Swiss army knife, not the whole toolbox. They also do basic fitness training for endurance.
The same principles apply to change. Focus on the basics. Sharpening fundamental skills and strengthening core disciplines is the Swiss army knife and fitness training for hiking through change. Working on yourself is often the best strategy to succeed for yourself.
Here are practical steps for executing the three top tips of top performing in change.
How to Stop and Look Forward
It usually doesn't work to tell yourself, "Don't be negative." The negatives just keep coming back. Instead, make two positive lists-one personal and one situational.
For the personal list, write down all the skills, talents, strengths, and experiences that built your success. Also, recall when you overcame challenges and note the talents that served you well. These personal qualities are a deep well of resources, and they build confidence based on proven abilities.
For the situation list, brainstorm positive possibilities. If it's helpful, brainstorm with someone not experiencing the change. Outsiders are often less influenced by the emotion of the moment and better able to see opportunity.
Keep the two lists handy and review them regularly. Add new possibilities as they develop. Research has shown that top performers show a consistent discipline of realistic optimism. These two lists provide the foundation for optimistically seeking opportunities based on real skills and successes.
How to Focus on Basics
After identifying personal strengths and relevant opportunities, the basic fitness plan will naturally emerge, as it did for Joe. After noticing the new golden opportunity, it became clear how to prepare. In addition, the defensive guessing about what other people might do and what might happen became far less pressing and distracting. The path to success was obviously a personal one, focused on building core strengths and demonstrating capability in the midst of disruption.
In the end, a simple win-win plan was developed that will benefit Joe no matter what happens. After building a basic training plan, creating and using a personal tag line is a helpful way to stay on track with realistic optimism. Here's an example:
"The best way to succeed is to do things for myself by working on myself to develop ________ and demonstrate________ so that I will be ready and able when __________opportunities arise."
This is a great time to be building strength for the opportunities that will appear this year. The three top tips for top performers will help you survive, manage. and create the positive change you want in 2013.