Six Thoughts on How to Manage New Situations

After more than 15 years in the same office space, our company moved on June 1 into a completely different building. It was a big process, and a bigger change than most of us anticipated. One person that I chatted with regarding this change actually said he felt dizzy for the first few days just trying to get his bearings. No one knew where anything was or where anyone’s office was. Even finding the bathrooms was a subject of interest. Some people with offices now had cubicles. Those used to window seats may not have them anymore. Add to that the clutter of moving and it really did feel disorienting.

office move 2Coincidentally, the first day in our new office was the first day of many new things for me personally. I resigned my executive position, became a contract employee, cut my work hours to 50% and took public transit to work for the first time in my working life. In the time leading up to the first day of my “first retirement”, I had promised myself that I would enjoy the journey and accept the changes as they came at me.

My coach’s curiosity also kicked in, and I became deliberate about noticing what was going on internally for me, as well as really listening for what was going on for others. After two weeks of this exercise, here are some of the things I discovered, in the form of ways we might approach new situations.

  1. Prepare. We don’t see all new situations coming, so this isn’t always possible. But when we have advance warning this is important, and has two components. First, what preliminary actions can you take to get ready for the newness? In our building move, even though we couldn’t access our space we walked over to the building to get a feel for it and we reviewed the floor plans so we would have an idea where we would be and who would be near us. The second part is to acknowledge internally that change is coming, set the most positive image of the new situation in our mind that we can and tell ourselves that we are capable of handling everything that will inevitably come up.
  2. Slow Down. Both physically and mentally. New situations aren’t the best places to be rushing around. Think of getting up in the middle of the night in a dark hotel room. If we were at home we would confidently navigate our way through the furniture and other obstacles. In a hotel room we’re likely to slow down significantly and perhaps even feel our way with our hands before we move our feet. Same thing with any new situation. Acknowledge that things are different, and it is important to notice what is important and give ourselves time to process it.
  3. explore 2Explore. The beauty of being in the midst of something new is that we have never been there before. Channel your inner child and go check it out with that same sense of discovery and wonder! Keep that idea of “slow down” in mind and really have a look. Take a minute to pause when you come across something positive. Make notes of where the things will you need are. In our office move, it was important to know where TW sits as he is the sole source of peanut M&M’s J, but also the supply room, the printer, the boss, the men’s room, etc. It is also good to make note of any questions that come to mind as you go, and then go seek out answers to the questions as a part of your exploration.
  4. Lower Your Expectations. If you know about something new, this concept can be part of your preparation. If we think about it logically, when we are in the midst of a situation that we’ve never been in before, it isn’t likely that we will immediately be operating at our peak performance level. Give yourself a break and be satisfied with something less than your all-time best. One of the best bits of leadership advice I’ve ever heard is that what we want to get out of our people is 100% of what they have to give at that moment, and not expect peak performance all the time. I think this is a pretty good place to start! As you become familiar with how things work in this new place, your performance will naturally rise to, and may even surpass, previous personal bests.
  5. Repack Your Stuff. When we are in a new situation, it means we’ve moved – physically, metaphorically, or both. When we move homes, we take this as an opportunity to get rid of excess stuff. What if we did that here too? What if we were to look at everything we carry with us – things, attitudes, assumptions, etc. – and critically examine whether that will serve us in our new situation. This isn’t always easy, because we aren’t wired all that well for change.   But if we can get honest with ourselves we can often spot some extra baggage that we would be repackingbetter off without in the future. Here’s an example from my own journey to retirement. I realized that I had an assumption that my executive title was a part of my identity, and I wanted to keep it with me. But it really served no purpose in my future vision, and it became more important to me that I find peace with leaving it behind to make room for other priorities.
  6. Look For Hidden Advantages. This is also about managing change in our lives. Often when we have change pressed upon us, we see all of the negative first and then after a while we start to notice that some new things that we might like are beginning to emerge. What if we consciously decided to look for these hidden advantages right up front? There are always some! Here’s an example from my transition. I gave up my downtown parking spot and so I take the train to work now. If I look at it from the negative side, I’ve given up my freedom of having my car, I’m now on the transit schedule, I can’t listen to my favorite radio station and it isn’t as comfortable. But I’ve already found things that I really enjoy about it. I read on the train, and that is either relaxing or gets me a head start on my work day. Because of some of the associated logistics I have to be more organized, which helped me organize which days I go to the office and which I work from home. It also helped we “repack my stuff” in that I discovered that I had always had a deep feeling that I could do more for the environment and this was really feeling good to me.

 

Published by

Ian Munro @ leadingessentially.com

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

10 thoughts on “Six Thoughts on How to Manage New Situations

  1. Thank you Ian, enjoyed the post. I’m curious about the last two weeks for you and how that has reconciled with your identity? What we do is often for people professionally, who they are. The first retirement and public transportation could potentially feel like a loss of identity. Has it been that way for you? Do you have any comments on how to be you without doing what you do?

    It’s unfortunate we compartmentalize our lives to the degree that work becomes an identity. For me, I’m trying to blur the lines and hopefully achieve a complete fluidity of existence. When you see me, I don’t want you to know if I’m working, playing, loving or learning. My identity can possibly become my character vs my function.

    1. Thanks for these thoughts Andrew. This a very meaningful concept and one that is close to me. The past two weeks have had very little loss of identity, but only because I worked through this with my coach in advance of my retirement. I knew it would be an issue. I love your image of a fluidity of existence. What worked for me might be a bit different than that though … I think it was more of identifying with the work I want to do vs. the title that I do the work under. It allows me to largely work in ways that are very rewarding to me. I’d love to chat more about this!

  2. Wow Ian, when your stuff changes, it really changes! Change role at work. Take transit instead of car. Change building, etc.

    I feel for your team mates too. Going from an office with a window to a cubicle feels like a demotion. And it seems it doesn’t really increase productivity as was once believed. Hope someone has planned for monitoring and improving office morale!

    Love the observations you’ve made and tips toward preparing for change that you shared here in this post. One cannot argue the fact that you are somewhat of an expert in this area, considering your transitions lately! ❤
    Diana xo

    1. Thank you Diana! I think our office move will work out great. Real estate decisions are probably the greatest source of “no win” situations we have in today’s workplace. I don’t envy being the person that has to make them! Nobody says thank you when they get a plum seat, but there are lots of issues when the seat feels like a “lesser” one.

  3. I too take transit most days — and I really enjoy it. The biggest advantage, aside from the cost savings on parking, is that I don’t have to drive home at the end of the day. I find if I walk from the C-train, in particular, I arrive home relaxed, carrying less of the stress of my day with me.

    And I agree with Diana — definitely an expert on this subject.

    I too am curious how the last two weeks aligned. When I left my previous employer after 6 years working in a place I loved, I too struggled with my identity — who am I without the profile (I was often in the media as I was their spokesperson), the title, the ‘aura’ of my importance. 🙂

    What a wonderful discovery to find myself okay without the trappings!

    Looking forward to connecting tomorrow.

    Cheers!

    1. As I commented to Andrew, I did the work of releasing my identity before I retired. I had a metaphor of being a fly (albeit a resourceful one with a pair of scissors) caught in a spider web of a work based identity. I would have to seek out the sometimes hidden threads of web tying me to that identity and snip them one by one. Title, perks, stories I told myself, false values, etc. all needed to be rooted out.

  4. Good luck with all that’s happening Ian! Preparing is so important … and being able to change plans as the unexpected comes up. Be present to it all and enjoy the ride!

  5. I wish you the best of success in all the changes in your life. It quite a transition you are going through. I love the way you see this as an opportunity to also consider changing side-things such as attitudes and assumptions. It will be a complete overhaul for you!

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