Staying in the Game
The message came from Human Resources. There\’s nothing to worry about
with the newly announced organizational changes and pending merger, it
reassured. The changes will be good for the company and good for the
people who work here it coached.
I\’ve seen a couple dozen messages like this during my career. In fact,
I\’ve even crafted a few. I\’ve been through mergers, acquisitions,
downsizings, organizational changes, personal career set-backs and a
myriad of new corporate initiatives. And the best lesson I learned from
all of them? Stay a player.
Granted my tactics for what that meant varied with the situation.
Sometimes the safest play was to keep my head down and do my work
exceedingly well until I understood the new landscape. Sometimes I
rolled with the punches long enough to realize what was happening might
be great for the company, but not a great long term choice for me, so I
moved on. Sometimes I helped others acclimate to the new direction or
culture and found new opportunities emerging along the way. Sometimes
the toll was personal, like when a promotion I\’d worked my entire
career to reach was given to an outsider. Still, I stayed in the game.
I\’m not saying I didn\’t yell and complain to friends or go into a
woe-is-me victim mode licking my wounds for a time; or require space to
sort out the divergent directional messages appearing to me like a
corporate minefield. I\’m not wired to change with the immediacy of a
remote control. But I am wired to change. I know taking myself out of
the game, retiring on the job, or sitting it out on the sidelines is
not a viable option if I want to be winning at working. As Charles
Darwin reminds, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive,
nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
But there\’s more to winning at working than survival. To grow and
thrive in the corporate world you must find your resilient center and
evolve. That may mean learning new skills, aligning with a new boss or
company, changing direction, letting go of the way things used to be
done, compromising approaches or moving on.
Only fifteen percent of S& P 500 companies listed at the end of the
1950\’s are still in existence fifty years later. In a Fast Company
(Nov04) interview with Jim Collins, author of the best selling book,
“Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” he advises
companies to, “Preserve the core! And! Stimulate progress!” He claims,
“To be built to last, you have to be built for change!”
His advice is as true for successful companies as it is for successful
people. You need to preserve your core and stimulate your progress. If
you do, you\’ll stay a player and deal with the changes coming your way.
Sure, change can be painful and difficult and uncomfortable, but if
you\’re open to what it brings, it may surprise you. It did me. My best
lifetime career opportunity came after I was denied the promotion I
coveted. It never would have happened if I hadn\’t stayed in the game.