Change Schmange…Whatever You Call It It’s Spelled O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y
Last summer I lost a large tree in my yard. I liked that tree and thought I really needed it for its beauty, its shade, and, well, it had been there for the 20 years I’ve lived in the house, so I was really used to seeing it. I was sad when I cut it down. I hated the gap it left, and I hated the change it made in what the yard looked like.
I’m looking at that spot right now. There’s a little aspen that had been in the tree’s shadow that has straightened up and is now thriving. There are flowers growing there now that were always stunted because they weren’t getting enough sun and water and care to show how pretty they could be. There’s still a gap, but I can see that in a few years the aspen will be there, filling that in a new and different way. The change was hard but eventually it made things better, even if different in many ways.
The last year has been like that for many companies in Colorado. The pandemic required massive and involuntary (literally overnight) change to how we live and work. Many companies took, “let’s look at ourselves and make sure that we are as good as we can be.” Strategies were evaluated, roles were examined, business models adjusted, new products were developed (some to respond to COVID-19), and new markets were entered. We saw many companies make large changes, some drastic.
Surprise! Most people don’t like large changes. Changes across the state resulted in worry and uncertainty with people on teams across companies, and in some cases departures. Some people left because they didn’t agree with the changes being made. Some people weren’t comfortable how their individual jobs would change and looked for a job that was a better fit for them. Some people had wanted to leave the organization for a while and the change was the push they needed to make their own personal changes and to grow as people. All of those things happened in companies across the state, and all are valid reactions for those individuals.
Talking with company leadership that survived this experience, patterns emerged similar to the stages of grief.
First was some level of shock,” these are key people. What happens now?”.
Second was triage, “okay, let’s figure out how to keep things going.”
Third was repair, “let’s get those jobs filled ASAP.”.
Fourth was cohesion, ”teams came together and said “we can do this, we’re still standing”.
And then something else happened.
Like the pandemic disruption, company teams took a breath and said “wait, this is an opportunity.”.
The gaps left by people leaving allowed others who may have been living in the shade of the organizational tree to get more attention. Companies noticed people who had been overshadowed stepped up to help out, becoming key contributors. New ideas came bubbling up where before the entrenched habits of status quo prevented new thinking or even consideration of new ideas. New people were brought in with fresh perspectives. Suddenly what had seemed a loss had helped create a stronger and more capable organization.
Change is hard, and not everyone will choose to go along. Those that do may not like it but eventually, accept the new normal. And those who embrace it grow and contribute in ways they hadn’t been able to before. I hated losing my tree, but obviously I didn’t think about selling my house. My aspen tree is pretty now, and the flowers are coming right along. My yard looks great. Not the same as before, but in many ways better. People in companies we know are seeing the same thing with their teams. Change was good. It was hard, but Colorado companies have weathered a huge storm and are stronger than ever. Thank God for change!
Tom Bugnitz, CEO