The 12 Rules of ART – Part 1 of 12

"If you argue for your limitations..... you get to keep them!" - (From Jonathan Livingston Seagull)

A few years ago a short book came out that swept the corporate world as a whole. In fact, my corporate office sent me a box of them for my staff and even some to distribute to my clients (which was a nice thought, but ultimately most of them already had it from THEIR corporate office). The book was called “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson, and presented a nice story related to the skill of dealing with change.

I say “Skill” because in my experience adapting to change is not something innate to functional human psychology. In fact, as a recruiter I can share my observation that humans in general will resist change subconsciously to try to achieve a state of perceived homeostasis. In other words – when things stay the same, they are viewed as KNOWN and in some way alleged to be SAFE.

Today, general corporate culture (contrary to functional human psychology) is dynamic and must be fluid to adapt to a global workplace with new rules, guidelines and priorities on a nearly hourly basis. This is the “macrocosm” we work within – it is our general business environment. But the corporate entity thrives on these growth opportunities. On a smaller, more personal or “microcosmic” level the same forces effect us constantly, but as humans we tend to perceive them differently. We view them as personal threats.

The corporate buzz-phrase for this phenomenon is “Change Resistance” and is viewed as an obstacle to progress and expansion at the macrocosmic business level.

Not only is it important for us to adapt (as functional entities in the corporate world) in an effort to further our corporate agenda, but as individuals the ability to assess and apply change can be an incredibly powerful tool for our own development and success. The reason books like “Who Moved My Cheese” that support these concepts are so popular is because the problem is understood, in corporate culture, to be pathological to success.

That’s right. People who do not adapt to change ultimately fail.

As an example, think about how much of your day you spend on the computer utilizing resume search services, candidate or sales tracking, process tracking, emailing, editing resumes or prospecting. Now, if I didn’t have a computer or cell phone and I was still working out of my little file drawer like when I first started in this business, do you think I would be able to compete with you? What about the difference in someone who uses the internet to prospect potential customers versus someone who uses the phone book – who do you think is more efficient, more effective and ultimately more clients?

The thing is, when all these technologies entered our workplaces there were people who resisted them. I had recruiters that would ask our receptionist to email clients for them because they didn’t want to learn the technology. Of course performing a search on a 10k resume database was completely beyond them (I don’t know anyone named “Boo-Lee-Ann”).

Luckily, there were recruiters like me who were more than happy to use new tools to my advantage and capture the business they failed to.

To understand how to avoid “Change Resistance”, we must understand the core of the issue, which is FEAR. Successful people in our industry are able to adapt quickly to change because they are able to manage their fear. This is accomplished with an objective assessment of the factors behind the change, as well as objectively evaluating the potential results of the change. For example, if an office is about to get a new manager, everyone in the office will have a combination of feelings about it:

1. Excitement because the new manager will be there to support them.
2. Anxiety because a new manager might have a different process or expectations than what they are used to.
3. Fear about the manager not getting along with them or discovering some weakness, ultimately leading to a departure from the company.

Some individuals might even experience anger they weren’t chosen for the position, or jealousy, or perhaps abandoned by the previous manager, or a plethora of other “fear based” emotions.

Of the three approaches to change illustrated above, one is positive, one is inert and one is unhealthy and potentially paralyzing. In the past, corporate culture was much more patient, allowing for longer adjustment periods to major changes like the above example. However, like many other philosophies this outdated ideal has generally been cast aside in favor of shorter adjustment periods, which statistically provide more positive outcomes. This is the basis for the employee purge that occurs after mergers and acquisitions. Companies have simply learned it’s easier to eliminate resistance and hire new talent without the pre-existing, self-limiting fears and resistant behaviors.

So from this, the adaptive and dynamic employee knows that the best way to survive massive change is to embrace it. Ah – but lets take this one step further.

On a personal level – those things we do day to day and hour to hour – we must also be willing to change and adapt new activities (or even beliefs) that help make us more effective at what we do. For example, recruiters are only just beginning to realize the power of in depth on-line networking (like In my office, linkedin is just starting to become a popular tool. But for those of us who are trying to take advantage of every networking opportunity, we have been realizing the benefits for quite some time – and we also have the advantage of realizing where our industry is headed, which gives us a strategic advantage over our competition.

When confronted with the prospect of change we have three options:

1. To argue for our limitation, i.e. To resist.
2. To adopt the attitude of a monkey who wants to see someone else do it first.
3. To be the trailblazer and adopt, adapt and champion.

How you respond to change on a personal, professional and corporate level will speak directly to your future success. How you define your limitations, and whether you seek to evaluate or defend them is directly related to your ability to promote and adapt to change. While we would never encourage you to rush blindly into ANY change without evaluating the potential outcomes, the ability to remove innate negativity to achieve the most objective state possible is crucial to your process of evaluation.

Everything we do is a decision. We simply try to make the best ones.

Next topic in the series: When to take a "No"

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