Adapting to change – especially ‘‘unprecedented’ change has become part of the normal situation for small business owners in Aotearoa, New Zealand. The upside of this is that you’re developing a valuable business strength. You’ll set yourself up to thrive by recognising what’s working in communication, decision-making, confidence and with the people side of change. Just ask your Mentor how important it is to be able to adapt! They’ll know, through their own deep experience, that being good at handling change is key to success.
Change is a state not a task
It’s natural to focus on getting to the end point of any difficult change process. But as long as our business environment is undergoing change, we need to do the same. Thinking about adaptability and change as state of mind can free you from the mental burden of chasing completion.
The pandemic, climate stress and global conflicts have prompted academics to describe today’s world as ‘BANI’ – Brittle, Anxious, Non-linear, Incomprehensible’. This replaces the cold war times of ‘VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Both of these academic constructs are relatable after two years of changing alert levels and endless unpredictability.
Communicating change well helps to build adaptability within your team and organisation. In small businesses, it’s difficult to hide change. Yet, if people know something is happening, but not exactly what or why, they may imagine the worst. Often people are already fearful of change. Actually, some experts believe we’d rather be unhappy than have uncertainty.
Communicating any change early is best, even if you feel like people won’t like what’s changing. Once you explain the situation, a change is no longer a shapeless unknown – conversations can give people clarity.
If you’re facing very high stakes change, it’s probably worth ensuring everyone has access to the same set of facts. Asking managers or peers to relay information can lead to slight distortions or misunderstandings. If there’s complex information you might consider a presentation and some takeaway notes.
Think about what matters most
People are central when making change happen. To help your team embrace or accept what’s happening means remembering what matters most to them. For most people, that’s job security, their way of working, their skills and job satisfaction. You can reduce anxiety about these things by giving as much clarity as possible.
Nurture a culture of adaptability
You can build your team’s confidence and comfort with change by celebrating it regularly. For example, if someone updates the website, show people the benefits and any positive client feedback. If someone learns how to change the paper on the new Eftpos machine, ask them to create tips for others and thank them for taking the lead. A strong and positive culture will make it easier to manage change at any scale.
Adaptability is a skill that can be learned like any other. It combines curiosity, courage and positive self-reflection. For practical approaches to building adaptability, we can look to the tech sector’s ‘Agile’. This industry has broadly adopted a mindset of agility because of its the fast pace of change. You can read more here.
Build your own confidence
One of the best things you can do to build adaptability into your business, is to be confident in your own ability to handle change. That can be hard when you’re making difficult decisions without all the information. A Business Mentor is a vital partner in helping you navigate the business environment.
Unlike a professional advisor, director, or staff member, a Business Mentor has no vested interest, other than your success. If you're willing to listen, a Mentor can help you jump past obstacles and avoid dead ends, giving you a distinct advantage in achieving your goals. Even if your Mentor’s experience is different to your own, they’ll be able to bring a fresh perspective.
Put simply, change is inevitable in today’s business environment, but that brings opportunity. By recognising how to get better at adapting to change, you’ll be developing a strong culture and good team communications so you’re ready for anything.