Our emotional reaction when we hear change is coming in the workplace depends on a number of factors:
Is the change expected?
Does the change set out to fix a problem or does it seem to be change for change’s sake?
Is the change isolated or is it part of a larger picture?
How much control do I have in the process?
How are others around me reacting to the change?
It is natural for us to fear change as it can easily tap into two very real root fears many of us share; the fear of failure and the fear of the unknown.
When I speak to agents and say how I believe all change in the industry is good, it’s not because I would always agree with the specifics around the changes taking place, but because change forces you to look at yourself and your business in a broader context and gives you the opportunity to grow.
And that opportunity in and of itself is a good thing.
We work in an industry that is always changing. For those who have been around a long time, there are dozens and dozens of stories about airlines merging or shutting down, travel company ownerships changing, massive technology changes, the advent of the Internet… we can sit around now and chuckle our way through them all but when they were all happening, we may have been too caught up in them in the moment to even notice that we were strong enough to survive them.
We may have all heard these thoughts before and they serve as good reminders on how to deal with change:
In their book The Critically Reflective Practitioner, Neil and Sue Thompson discuss the CIA Model:
Control: what are the things that are within your control?
Influence: if you can’t control something, can you influence it or its outcome?
Accept: what you cannot control or influence, you simply must accept and adapt as needed
These are the things that can help us find our peace emotionally, but as an Independent business owner in an ever-changing industry such as ours, you need to go further than your emotions and get to the root of what change will mean for you AND your business.
Architects of Change
Change is a process, and so is dealing with it.
From an airline making a technology change, to a change in ownership or a relationship with a travel partner, somewhere along the way there are architects of these changes and the closer you can get to the architects and understand their process, the better you will be able to hone in on the process needed for your business.
As an Independent business owner, the energy you are tempted to spend on handling your own emotions towards change could be better spent towards understanding the process, logic and reasoning behind the change so that you can make sense of it for your business and develop your own process to respond to it.
I am not saying the tactics described above should not be heeded; getting emotionally invested towards a change is a giant leap and they all have their place.
What I am saying is that dealing with change cannot just end with emotional acceptance.
Understand the Architects
Helpful questions to ask through any major change are:
You may be dealing with the architects directly or with someone in a chain of communication that started with the architects. Ask these questions as far up that chain as is practical, remembering that change management often means specific roles and responsibilities when it comes to communication.
Understanding where the Architects are coming from will help you find the correlations in your own business.
Assess Your Business
After you gain a better understanding of the big picture, ask yourself:
Articulate YOUR Process
When you have the answers to the above, write them down. This is the start of your plan and your process on how YOUR business will respond to the change.
Allow your plan to evolve. Take into consideration best and worst-case scenarios. Revisit the plan throughout the process to ensure it is staying in line with the architects.
Crafting this plan helps you emotionally as it reminds you that, while you may not have as much control over the change itself as you’d like, you have FULL control over how you respond to it.
This also helps your business as it gives you something practical to refer to throughout the process; a safety net for those inevitable moments where the emotions do come front and centre.
You are an Independent business owner in an ever-changing industry and many of you have chosen this path because of the freedom and flexibility it affords. The status quo was not enough for you and you wanted to run your business your way.
Change is good because of the opportunity it gives you to continue to grow and develop yourself as a business owner.
And if we aren’t here to learn, grow and develop ourselves, what else are we here for?
Lee Zanello has been both the architect and receiver of change in the travel industry for over 15 years, with the last five helming the Independent business for Flight Centre in Canada. He has huge respect for those agents who have made the decision to be Independent and knows the benefits, and burdens, that come along with that choice. This is the first piece in a series of ‘Independent Insights’ based on experience and learnings from agents within the Independent community.