6 Tips for Embracing Change at Work

Iona BrodeIona Brode: “One of the best pieces of advice I got from a trusted mentor was to assume leadership and opportunities will start coming your way.”

Iona Brode is Head of Transformation at Silicon Valley Bank

Change is at the core of what I do. I lead the Transformation Office at Silicon Valley Bank, whose business is helping innovative companies and their investors change the world. My role is to help shape new digitally led initiatives aimed at improving the experiences of our clients and employees. That often requires changing both the way we work and the way we interact with our clients. Change is inevitable but not always easy. I have some tips to share that I’ve learned during my career that might help you navigate the twists and turns with more ease.

1.    Own your opportunity. Say “yes,” even if you aren’t 100 percent sure you are ready to tackle a daunting new project or role. One of the best pieces of advice I got from a trusted mentor was to assume leadership and opportunities will start coming your way. You don’t need to have all of the answers; you just need to trust that you have the resources and people around you who do.

2.    Consider lateral career choices. Successful careers often aren’t linear. In my case, I took a job that involved reporting to a peer. Why did I do it? It was a role that would give me new insights to a key part of the business that I didn’t know as well, which was way more important to me than hierarchy. I learned so much that it got me where I am today.

3.    How to pick a mentor/sponsor. Sometimes people find you. But often you have to be the instigator, so to speak. And you want to look for someone who cares enough and feels comfortable giving constructive, even difficult feedback. Here’s something I found:  Look for someone who inspires you. It’s a lot easier to swallow your medicine when it’s coming from someone who inspires you. The advice is likely grounded in their own personal experience and designed to help you learn from your mistakes or miscues, probably similar to ones they made. 

4.    Don’t let stress control your life. Sometimes work situations just aren’t fixable. At a previous workplace when I was just getting started, I worked for what some would call a micromanager. Young and ambitious, I convinced—well, tried to convince—myself that I could handle the situation and thrive amid the stress. I was wrong.

We’re not infallible as humans. Some things just don’t work, and it’s better (not to mention healthier) to walk away and seek other opportunities. When I see signs of stress in colleagues, remembering how it affected me, I look for remedies. If I’m having a bad day or two and still can’t shake it, I sit down and say to myself: Let’s change something here instead of getting stuck. Self-honesty and self-care are vital. Spend 15 minutes in the evening reflecting on your day and ask, “What am I going to do more of? What am I going to change?”

5.    Avoid group think. As you might imagine, a big part of my job is to help people see the benefits of change; how doing things differently benefits their work life and not uncommonly their personal life when they become more empowered and efficient. 

While it is a great premise, executing it is not easy. It takes a team of people dedicated to the promise of transformation and you have to show results. What fuels this thinking?  First, let me suggest what stops transformation in its tracks:  group think. 

What makes it work?  A diverse workplace that celebrates and respects diverse thinking.  As a leader, actively encourage and model open discussion, and if done correctly, it will prompt people to become your change agents. 

6.    Listen well. You will hear “This is never going to work.” Or, “We tried it before, and it failed.” Dig a little and ask, “Why didn’t it work before?” You might be surprised when you peel back the onion. Sometimes, the original skepticism turns to excitement.

Leaders today are looking for individuals who are open to change and flexible. You don’t have to say “yes” to everything. But to be successful, learning how to embrace and navigate change does need to be part of your internal fabric.

 


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