If you attended ISU Extension Annual Conference and left with the awareness and feeling that change is the order of business, you must have been paying attention. Change, internally and externally, is all around us. Our clientele is changing. The environment we work in is changing. The Extension structure and culture is changing. So I guess I need to get with it and adapt or adjust to these changes as well. I realize I need to change some aspects of how I do my work. But, I’m not certain how to do make these changes. How do I get started?
For many an immediate reaction to all these changes is to become cynical. How often do you hear people say something like; “I’ve heard all this before” or “been there, done that?” Approaching change with cynicism is not uncommon. In America, cynicism has almost become the way to address any change effort. Keep in mind the old saying, “behind every cynic stands a frustrated idealist.”
So how do we avoid becoming a full blown, life-long cynic? How do we begin to make the changes needed? How do we “walk the talk?”
To begin, you might start by asking yourself a few reflective questions;
- Am I experiencing more difficulty or discomfort or stress performing my job?
- Am I working harder or more and enjoying it less?
- Are people requesting my product more or less?
- Are my clients becoming older or younger?
- Do my clients want a new product or the current product delivered differently?
- Are my relationships with co-workers or clients being affected?
- Are expectations of me by my superiors or clients affecting my job satisfaction?
If, after reflecting on these questions, you decide you can continue to work the same way you have for the last 10-15 years, perhaps you don’t need to read further. You probably are well into your retirement planning anyway.
If, on the other hand, you decide some change is probably needed, you are well on your way to managing personal change. The key to the next step is to clarify for yourself where you need to move to. What does the future need to look like? What is your vision of the way you need to work? What do you see that will be in place 3-5 years from now? What behaviors need to be different? What skills are needed to effectively work in this new future?
Now that you have a picture of where you are headed, the next step is to obtain the knowledge and skills needed to make this vision reality. This may involve specific face-to-face educational experiences or the interaction with information only or a combination of both. Whatever the mechanism for making the change happen, you need to create an opportunity for feedback on your attempts at making the change and the impact on your behavior. Find someone who will be willing to work with you in this “coaching” role. However, be careful that this “coach” is not just someone who will only reinforce your behavior regardless of what the behavior is. Identify someone who will give you honest feedback and in a kind and caring manner.
When you have effectively changed your behavior, celebrate the accomplishment by doing something fun and rewarding for successfully moving forward.
Keep in mind, making personal behavior change is not easy. If it were easy, we would all make changes instantaneously and not need a process. We need to “work” at making a personal change. However, by being successful in the change process, you will experience staying in touch with the work world and your clientele. It keeps you relevant and needed. It also makes you better able to make the next needed change.
Until next time, identify a needed change and have fun making it a reality.