How Do You Handle Change?

Last night my friend’s wife and kids attended a play at the Fox Theatre, an Atlanta landmark.

They followed their cultural experience with a stop at another well-known landmark called The Varsity. They placed their order at the drive through window, paid in cash, received their change and hit the highway.  They arrived home around 11:20 p.m. My friend met the mini-van in the driveway expecting to see two sleeping angels in the back.

Much to his surprise they were still awake and shouting, “We got one-hundred change!”

Apparently the cashier at The Varsity overlooked two zeros on one of the dollar bills he gave to my friend’s wife. Instead of giving her seven $1 bills, she received six one-dollar bills plus a $100 bill. The kids were more than excited.

Time for Change

Before I share the rest of this story, allow me to ask you a couple of questions:

  • Do others consider you a change leader? If so, what’s your secret?
  • In other words, what does it take to become an effective ambassador of change?
  • How do real leaders handle change?
  • More specifically, how would you handle this “extra” change if it were placed in your hands?

Every day our circumstances, competition, and business conditions change. Whether you are a parent or a business leader, you are responsible for showing your “followers” how to handle change. Some change we see coming down the pike, thereby giving us time to prepare. Other change comes unexpectedly, without warning, catching us off guard.

Regardless of when and how change avails itself, how we handle change matters.

Managing Change

Volumes have been written on the topic of change management — ways to lead organizational, strategic and technological changes to improve a company’s bottom-line. Change management experts stress the need to be proactive verses reactive. They show how to leverage the lessons from the past and use the data available in the present to chart a better course for the future.

This may sound crazy or even naive to some of you, but I’ve never been a big proponent of change management. The entire process and philosophy seems like too much work for me.

The truth be told, I think there is an easier and better way to handle “external” change. It is to remain “internally unchanged.”

Imagine if every corporate and political leader in the world defined their core values, committed to remaining “unchanged” by circumstances and outcomes, and vowed to do what’s right for everyone involved every time external change occurred. Hard to imagine I know, but try. Call me simple, but I find it much easier to remain “internally unchanged” when it comes to making important decisions in business and life. Knowing in advance, making a pre-decision, that I will only do what’s right when I’m faced with handling change reduces my stress and increases the efficiency of my decision-making dramatically.

Said, differently, I believe that choosing to act with integrity up front limits the need to deploy elaborate change management strategies later on.

A Varsity Player

My friend asked his seven-year old son, “What do you think we should do? How should we handle this extra change?” My friend shared how an employee might get blamed for the mistake; maybe even lose his or her job at the Varsity.

Without hesitation his son responded with integrity. “We need to take it back?”

My friend continued his change management leadership lesson by asking, “What if they don’t know who it belongs to, then what should we do?”

Again, not missing a beat his son said, “We could give it to the people in Haiti.”

At this point I’m thinking, Hmm, if a seven-year old can handle change so easily, why are us adults having such a hard time with it every day? Perhaps it’s because as leaders we’ve been over thinking change.

Maybe we’ve gotten too focused on feeding the bottom line, and overlooked our need protect our employees or feed the poor in Haiti. Or just maybe we’ve subconsciously fallen victim to all the hype surrounding change management and forgot the truth: as leaders we must lead change from the inside out, not allowing external change to influence our decision-making.

The next time you find yourself faced with extra change I encourage you to ask yourself these three questions:

1). What’s the right thing to do?

2). Who else will be effective by the way I handle this change?

3). Will my core values remain unchanged if I proceed in this manner?

Joe Colavito is Vice President, Development and Delivery at Wells Real Estate Funds
He is an Inspirational Speaker, Storyteller, Author, and Coach
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Web | Blog

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5 responses to “How Do You Handle Change?

  1. Great take on leading from the inside out in the face of external change. Colavito has it right…inside out integrity requires a leader to guard against changing one’s value system during the decision-making process. If as a result of a decision-making process (necessitated by external changes), one alters some values, well and good. But a principled decision-making process, unaltered by the influence of external change, should be the driver of any potential change in values. Otherwise, our values would be mere leaves fluttering in the winds of change.


  2. Joe,
    GREAT thoughts & perspective on how we handle business and life. I tend to have a similar feeling every time I read a long list of strategic actions or checklists.

    We can all take a great lesson from children, as Joe points out. As we grow older, we move from operating from the heart, to operating from the head. We lose heart (passion, character, integrity), lose the peace of simplicity, and the joie de vivre that comes with these.

    Operating “strategically” without the heart, we become desensitized to the impact of our actions on others (character), and to the possibility of joy in our work.

    My takeaway: Let us embrace life – and change – with the heart of a child!


  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention How Do You Handle Change? « Linked 2 Leadership --·

  4. Nice Job. We all need to use our hearts as leaders to understand what others are going through.


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