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September 27, 2016

6 ways to get better at adapting to change

Daily Briefing

Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on Aug. 30, 2018.

Change doesn't have to be unbearably stressful.

You can learn to get better at accepting periods of transition—and using them to your advantage—according to Nick Tasler, CEO of DecisionPulse and author of Domino: The Simplest Way to Inspire Change. Tasler in Harvard Business Review recommends six strategies for adjusting to changes in your organization.

Drive organizational change—without overloading managers

1. Share a laugh

Cracking a joke at a tense moment can alleviate stress and help everyone think about a problem in a new way, Tasler says. Take care that your humor is appropriate and respectful, though. "A good rule of thumb is that other people's strife is no laughing matter, but your own struggles can be a source of comedic gold," says Tasler.

2.  Focus on solutions

While it's important to acknowledge any anxiety about changes from the beginning, Tasler warns against spending too much time talking or thinking about your feelings. Instead, he suggests looking for practical advice, next steps, and problems that can be solved.

3. Don't pile on extra stress

Fretting over your stress can cause more harm than the stress itself, according to Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal. Tasler encourages us to view stress as a helpful emotion: For example, it might help you perform better at a big presentation or signal that it's time to leave a bad situation. Tasler cites research showing that positive perceptions of stress can improve resilience and lead to a longer life.

4. Hold on to your priorities

Reflecting on the values, people, and goals that are most important to you can remind you that today's challenges won't change the core of who you are. A series of studies have shown that people adapt to change better after spending 10 minutes writing about a time they were helped by one of their personal values.

5. Find a way to take action

You can't undo the change, but you can control what you do next. Tasler recalls the story of Viktor Frankl, who returned home from a Nazi concentration camp only to find that his family had been killed. Frankl ultimately realized that he couldn't get his family back, but he was free to build a new life for himself, find new friends or a wife, continue his work, and pursue his passion for music and reading.

Tasler acknowledges that Frankl's story is an extreme example, but encourages us to find inspiration in it for moving forward after a change.

6. Know that change will come

Letting go of any expectations that things won't change can help you adapt to new situations, Tasler says. He cites a study of a large phone company in the 1970s, a period of dramatic upheaval for the industry.

The managers that thrived in that time were those who accepted changes as a natural and predictable part of life. Managers who struggled to adapt tended to feel personally attacked by the changes and bemoaned lawmakers, industry leaders, and unfairness of the universe (Tasler, Harvard Business Review, 9/21).

Drive organizational change—without overloading managers

On top of an already challenging job with an often unwieldy span of control, today’s managers are also tasked with implementing an overwhelming number of new initiatives. The result is most managers end up overwhelmed, overloaded, and unable to drive forward organizational change.

This report contains four strategies that will help executives increase manager capacity and make change initiatives doable.

Get the Report

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