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  Management Feature

Shifting Gears, Changing Lanes

Posted 9/08/2006
Jay Gubrud

Everyone deals with change differently. Knowing how you deal with it can shed light on your work style.

I began speaking on the topic of change almost 10 years ago. It was a hot topic! Normally, "hot topics" come and go. But change has not gone away at all; it has only increased. For now and the foreseeable future, it is safe to assume that the speed of change will do nothing but increase. Being able to use change to your advantage is why I wrote this article. In this article you will find key solutions for making change work in your favor instead of against you.

The Service Mindset

One example of a service mindset is the coffee barista that took the time to learn my name and what I like to drink. Now every time I go into the coffee shop, my drink is ready before I even reach the counter. Another is the loan officer who went to the home of an injured client to complete some paperwork. Third is the manager who came back to work after dinner to attend a meeting. It would have been understandable if any of these people chose not to go that extra step. Instead they stepped up and asked, "How can I help?" They had a service mindset! They liked their job, the company, helping others and decided to go above the call of duty.

Four Reactions to Change

  • Nose to the grindstone: The great thing about "nose to the grindstone" people is that they get busy when change happens. They close the door and get to work. The thing to keep in mind if you are, or manage, a "nose to the grindstone" person is that they tend to use the same strategies that got them to their current position. So it is important for this personality to expose themselves to new ways of doing things. This might involve talking to peers within your company or an association you belong to, taking a class or seminar to learn new skills or reading a book.

  • Deer in headlights: This personality just gets stuck when change comes along. They get paralyzed. They are so used to the way things used to be that they aren't exactly sure how they fit in to the new circumstances. The nice thing about this personality is that they aren't complaining about the organization. They are just stuck. If you or someone you supervise has this trait, the solution is simple. Create a plan. This does require asking for help, so approach someone who is methodical and good with plans. If you need to accomplish something in a month, then lay out what do you need to do each week and what needs to happen each day. The funny thing about this type of person is that once you get started, it's not as hard as you thought it would be.

  • Gossip: The nice thing about these folks is that they are talking about the change. In my opinion, it is healthy to talk about the change going on and to acknowledge what is happening to the employees or members. Otherwise, we are just ignoring the obvious. The problem with "gossip" people is that they can damage the company or association if they don't preface their comments correctly. For example, they might say, "Management was wrong, they should have done this," "That was a stupid thing to do," or "If they were smart they would have put Wendy in charge." All these statements can be damaging and undermine unity.

    "Gossip" folks (any of us can use these) can use these simple statements so they can express themselves without damaging others. They can make themselves right without making others wrong. There are three simple prefaces you can use: In my opinion, I believe and I feel. Let me give you a car example. If I say Ford makes the best pickup trucks, can we dispute that? Yes, we can look at purchase price, payload, resale value, horsepower and the list goes on. If I say: "In my opinion, Ford makes the best pickup trucks." Can we dispute that? No, because that is my opinion. Everybody has opinions.

  • New job: It is normal for change to happen. It may be time for someone to take a different position or leave the company or association. If you have a pond of water with no way for fresh water to get in or old water to leave, what happens? It stinks. It stagnates and dies. The same can be true for humans too.

Overcoming Frustrations

Have you ever tried something new, got frustrated and quit? When doing something new, look at your progress rather than perfection. Too often we compare our status to a picture-perfect image we have created in our mind. They say Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither are the new skills we develop. If you are frustrated, ask yourself, "Am I doing better than a week, month or year ago?" If the answer is yes, you are on track. If the answer is no, then a new approach may be in line. Don't be afraid to ask for help from a person you respect and who will support you.

Rewarding Expectations

Are your expectations realistic? We often set unrealistic expectations for outcomes, progress or life in general. That only defeats us. Who is in control of our expectations? We are! If you are hitting a wall and feeling frustrated or defeated, ask yourself if your expectations are in line with reality! I constantly see people who get angry and frustrated because the world, their job or other people don't meet their expectations. What I am not here to say is to under perform and hold your expectations low so that you don't achieve what you want in life.

If a person or a situation is within your control, you can have as high of an expectation as you want. A great example is if you are frustrated with your job. You can get education and training to get you into a new department or company - you are in control of that. One caveat is that I have seen people leave positions or companies just to find the same discontent at the new company. A young girl once told me that she had heard a speaker tell an audience to look for a job where you like 85 percent of what you do. That made a ton of sense to me. Whose job doesn't have 15 percent that isn't much fun? I don't believe it is realistic to like 100 percent of a job. If you do, that is fantastic!

If your supervisor has piled on unrealistic expectations for you, consider a discussion with them or one of your peers who can help you focus on what you can achieve for the company or department. A great question to pose to your supervisor is "Help me understand how I can get all of my work done, considering the added workload you just gave me?" or "What was your thinking behind this?"

Three Criteria for Making Change Work

  1. The situation must be in your control:

    Too often I see people committing to changing their situation but lack control over the situation. A great example was when a client of mine said she would get a membership to a gym once things slowed down at the office. I don't know about you, but my office doesn't ever slow down. As a result she was sabotaging changing her behavior.

  2. You must be committed:

    Change does not come easy. We have to be committed to our new goal or changes; without it we can expect the same old results. These changes will be uncomfortable for a while but will become normal in time.

  3. You must find a good enough reason:

    A heart attack victim must go through trauma to find a good enough reason to change their eating and exercise habits. It doesn't have to be traumatic if you find a good enough reason early on.

    If what you want to change meets all three criteria then your chances of success are extremely high! It may not happen in a day or week, but if it is within your control, you are committed and have found a good enough reason ... you will succeed in a reasonable time frame!

Jay Gubrud Editor's note: This article is one of several management articles that will be contributed to AutoInc. this year by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit

For more than 10 years, Jay Gubrud has helped corporations, associations, their boards and members eliminate roadblocks to their success. His theme is unique and one everybody can relate to - Cars and Driving! Gubrud's articles on performance improvement have been in numerous publications nationwide. To learn more, visit or call (651) 635-9939.

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