With Marines, the decision was to reenlist, go to college, or respond to the lure of a real paycheck. In consulting, it was whether to continue the grueling hours away from friends and family, go independent or take a normal job that’s stable and predictable.
Now that I’m in one of those normal jobs, with stability and predictability, sometimes it amazes me how many people still approach me about doing something different. The only constant is change.
My familiarity – and comfort with – change may be the reason why many are open to having these discussions with me. Through a mix of company decisions, and my own, I’ve created and been on the receiving end of a lot of change. I may not be an expert, but I certainly have a thought or two on taking a leap into the big unknown.
Here I go into new days
When I hear the words “I need a change,” my first step is to ask about the current role and what may or may not be working. Grass is not any greener anywhere else – it’s still grass. Sometimes it’s okay to want new grass, but know that it’s not going to suddenly be something else.
We can get caught up in creating patterns for ourselves (the grass) – whether positive or negative. Understanding what is driving the need for change can help make sure we are creating a positive pattern or changing a negative one.
For example, if someone continually has challenges with team members, no matter what team he/she belongs to, it’s probably not the teams that have the issue. Until the individual recognizes what it is about him/herself that could be contributing to the team dynamic, the pattern will be repeated in every new role.
Another example comes straight out of my playbook. I thrive on change and need that feeling of new challenge and growth regularly. However, I can’t change jobs every five minutes. Instead, as soon as I feel that I’ve learned what I can from a given area, I look for new ways to contribute and grow.
When the lure of change comes knocking, it’s important to think about whether it’s change for change sake, or a true opportunity that lies ahead.
Do you bury me when I’m gone?
There are a few recurring themes I hear when talking to colleagues looking for new opportunities. One of the most common is feeling valued.
Many companies, like mine, offer at-will employment. Theoretically, any of us could be replaced tomorrow. It would be at a cost, but it could happen.
From a practical perspective, no company can allow itself to fail due to the loss of one employee. However, letting an employee believe that he or she is completely replaceable fails to reflect the unique value that person brings to the table.
The work that needs doing has a way of getting done. Ultimately, we are all replaceable. The value – the thing that is not replaced – is what any one of us brings that any other person might not. It could be high energy and enthusiasm or a willingness to be the first person to try something new.
What is that unique thing that you bring to the table? As a leader, do you know the value each of your employees bring? Do they know you know?
Do you teach me while I’m here?
A second driver that I often hear from individuals looking for new opportunities is personal growth and development.
Talking to an executive recently, she assumed that talented employees receive more attention and development than other employees. I’m only one person – but I’ve talked to many people over the years that felt they were not being developed.
I believe each individual is responsible for his/her own development. I’ve certainly managed mine for the last 20 years. However, having a manager who is vested in that development, making suggestions that you may not be able to see for yourself, is invaluable. And – unfortunately – not as common as it should be.
It can be easy as leaders to attend to the individuals that clearly need help. Ones that struggle. Just because someone doesn’t need intervention doesn’t mean they don’t need to be developed though. If anything, they need the investment, because they are the future of any company’s growth.
Just as soon as I belong, then it’s time I disappear
Thoughtful, deliberate change, can be an amazing opportunity for growth, challenge and – let’s face it – FUN! However, constant change brings with it a very real risk. It’s difficult to belong – anywhere – when you change all the time.
Consistency helps build lasting relationships and trust. It can be difficult to become part of a relationship – whether team or friendship – if you’re only present for a short amount of time and then looking ahead to something new.
I have lived in 28 different places and held many positions in several companies over the years. Building connections, and then keeping those connections over time, takes work. But it is those connections that provide a tether when the pace of change might otherwise be overwhelming.
Change is the only constant and relationships are our anchor in the sea of chaos.
Do you have other thoughts on change and what drives us to seek it out? I’d love if you could share your thoughts in the comments and keep the conversation going.
Lyrics – Metallica “I Disappear”