Managing Change

With any change, you can either choose to accept it or not. Whichever side you take, many times, whether you realize it or not, your co-workers are looking to see how you react. Both positive and negative reactions are contagious. Typically, change isn’t a choice, but how we react to it is. Whatever choice we make, we’re all leaders in our own ways, encouraging people to follow or have similar opinions — good and bad—right or wrong.

You may have heard phrases like, “Born to be a leader,” and “You don’t need a title to be a leader.” Research shows that leadership is a set of skills that are developed over time by taking advantage of learning opportunities and leveraging your strengths and knowledge. Tangible expertise, like knowledge, helps set the stage for becoming a good leader. However, it’s really the intangibles that will set you apart from others and help you become a more effective leader, particularly during a time of change. Attributes that will help you in your leadership (leading others and leading yourself) include:

  • How willing are you to take suggestions?
  • Are you flexible and adaptable?
  • Do you understand challenges that face your team at all levels?
  • How open are you to new ideas?
  • Do you display a positive attitude?

Whether you know it or not, you are a change leader by your actions alone. As we continue to move forward with changes in PS HR as well as the university as a whole, consider stretching yourself to be a positive leader of change. You and those around you may find that the transition easier than you anticipated.

Managing the Stress of Change

While change can come with anticipate and excitement, it can also create stress, tension, and apprehension because of what is being left behind. This is a good time to practice and be open to ways that can help you manage this transition and allow yourself to be more open to change.

Two ideas for you to consider for yourself and for your team:

  1. Self Compassion Break – Start with a mindfulness statement like, “This is stressful.” Then recognize that this is common for many around you and make a statement to your such as, “Other people feel this way.” Lastly, express self-kindness with a statement like, “May I be strong,” or “May I be patient.” By creating your own mindfulness statements you are helping yourself replace a self-critical voice with a more compassionate voice. Practice this as often as you need to.
  2. Find the Silver Lining – List five things that make you feel like your life is enjoyable (work or personal). Next, write down the most recent time something frustrated you, irritated you, or mad you angry. Finally, list three things that will help you see the bright side of the situation. Practice this daily or weekly for the most impact.

There are probably other ways you have thought of to help ease into thinking about being open to what change will bring. Practice these as often as possible and share them with your colleagues as well. Helping others can help you, too!

Tips for Change

Listed below are a few tips to consider that can help you move forward during a time of significant change both at Penn State and the world around you. When it feels like too much, ask yourself:

  • What have I learned (or could learn) about myself or the world around me?
  • What is really true versus fiction?
  • How can I use my skills and strengths to help myself and others cope more effectively?
  • How can I build new skills and develop new strengths?

Notice how your energy shifts when you take action. Action creates positive energy no matter how small the action. Reach out to your colleagues and ask how you can help. 

Change very often provides you with many new opportunities to learn, not just in technical or professional aspects, but also in self-discovery and managing challenges.

What can you do? Consider the actions below and practice every day.

  • C – Communicate: You can’t communicate enough, but be coherent, clear, and sensitive. Remember to listen – the most important part of communication!
  • A – Address Pressing Issues: Do you know what pressing issues might be facing anyone on the team, including yourself?
  • N – Beware of Negative Behavior: Tune into your behavior and others on your team. Is this a momentary attitude or is it so pervasive that it might prevent forward movement?
  • D – Don’t Panic: Accept that there is going to be disorientation and distress. This is normal so focus on work that helps make you more useful, focused, and compassionate with yourself and those on your team.
  • O – Optimism and Opportunity: Be a realistic optimist – take time to look at the upside and how your current situation can open opportunities for the future. What will you gain from it?