Building Positive Responses to Change

It's the start of a new year and may be a time for changes to your business.  Some changes are well received and viewed positively.  Other changes are viewed negatively and not received as well. One thing is certain, change is always coming.

American inventor Charles Kettering once said "The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress."  As the insight of someone with over 300 patents, observing Mr. Kettering's  advice may provide us, as well as our clients with productive ways to deal with responses to change. 

What change? There is tons of change occurring in your clients life right now, as well as your own. Think about it. I am confident you will discover several key changes you are facing right now. Aging, funding college educations, loss of a loved one, empty nests and broken marriages. All serious and all costly. How about technology, the market, new laws and regulations, and job challenges. Change is always upon us.

Below are some simple approaches from our "Embracing Change" workshop that you may find helpful personally when dealing with change.  They are also tactics you can share with your clients when facing change.

Vent:  Emotions don't disappear and it's healthy to vent. Help them identify techniques to express their frustrations.  Just be sure the venting period doesn't last too long. A well-running machine vents quickly. Caution, venting that lasts too long turns into victimhood.

Normalize emotions:  Ask clients to look at how others may feel in the same situation. Based on these observations, have them assess whether their own responses are normal or overreactions to a situation.

Expand the "what if”: Instead of fixating on just asking the "what if" questions associated with change, turn it into a productive exercise.  The secret is to have clients take the "what if" questions all the way until they come up with plans to deal with the feared outcomes of change rather than be paralyzed by them.

Get beneath the anger to the real feelings:  At best, anger can be distracting.  By getting to the real emotion, clients may be more effective in dealing with the feelings and focusing on productive responses.

Brainstorm opportunities:  Rather than focusing on the challenges posed by the change they are facing, find areas for opportunity.

Create perspective:  Discuss ways to put change into perspective such as distracting activities or taking a time-out.

Build confidence:  Help them discover meaning and purpose during times of change by learning to focus on their own identity.  This exercise can help them to see the forest for the trees and put problems into perspective.

Establish a plan:  In line with the old proverb "He who fails to plan, plans to fail," successful individuals operate according to a plan.  This step is always important, but can be critical during times of change.

Recharge:  Effectively navigating change requires energy.  Help clients find specific ways to recharge themselves through hobbies, music or other activities they may find energizing.

The 800 Pound Gorilla

Helping clients recognize that fear is a result of change is the first step to embracing change, but your work doesn't stop there.  Human nature requires that we deal with the change in our lives. Ignoring the issues brought on by change can only cause our fears to grow in ways that we are less likely to control. It can even divert our energy from addressing the most critical problems which can be akin to worrying about the flower beds when there is a 800 pound gorilla on the lawn! 

However, the challenge is not to cross the line of dealing with our fears to obsessing about them―a phenomena that I refer to as "fanning the flames."  Rather than worrying about the past or possible events that may happen, the focus should be on constructive ways to deal well with change. 

It's Not About You

As we've learned the last several years, during challenging economic environments, uncertainty can lead us to become paralyzed by our fears.  In this state of mental paralysis, we can lose sight of what we should be doing to help our clients navigate the changes presented to them daily by volatility in the financial markets.  Rather, this should be the time to step up and deliver superior customer service while building stronger relationships with your clients. The more you connect with your clients during fearful times, your own fears may seem to resolve themselves as well.

Embrace Change, Its Inevitable

Fear can lead us to lose focus on our clients at times when your connection with them is the most important.  Part of this connection is helping them cope with fear and fearful times by recognizing that fear is a result of…change!  From changes in their expectations to changes in their reality, now is the time to help them deal with these changes.  Talk with them about where they are in the "cycle of market emotions" and how their feelings and the performance of their investments can exaggerate their emotions.  Through this understanding, your clients may be better prepared to overcome change…before it overcomes them.

Turn and face the strange
Pretty soon now you're gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can't trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can't trace time

Songwriter: David Bowie

Changes lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Tintoretto Music, BMG Rights Management, 1971

Tony DiLeonardi