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The key to being successful is adapting and evolving

July 25, 2014
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“Your skills suck.” That’s not something you would actually expect to say during an interview. 

We are careful about what we say during discussions with potential employees, even those we are pretty sure we don’t want to hire. We’ve learned to adapt to the employment regulations and, of course, the changing environment and demographics of the job market. We know we can’t discriminate by race, sex, age and all the rest. We adapt to the changing business climate in order to be successful and outperform our competitors.

The key to being successful is adapting and evolving. Even product or process development comes about through evolutionary steps. Change takes time. It frequently requires nurturing to make things flourish in a hostile environment. 

Those of us who are said to be movers and shakers are also thought to be very bright people. If that is the case, how come we do stupid things? How come we believe that, just because we say something, everyone else is going to fall in line? How come we don’t figure out we need to lay the ground work and position events so that when it happens, it is just the expected results? 

That is what evolution is all about. No surprises; it is creeping change that allows people to adapt successfully.

We tend to believe change is happening more rapidly every day. That change is about technology, not people. Although people may be adapting more rapidly than they used to, it is still not at the speed of machines and products.

I had a conversation recently with a client who said they were trying to make a cultural change in their organization to bring their people up to the level of the tools they built. The tools had been the focus of the business for 30 years, and the previous owner never gave the people a thought.

Those who embrace change are more comfortable but even so, they may get a bit tired of always trying to keep up. So, if this is how things are, we had better learn how to manage skill change and people development. Recognizing how change fits into the existing environment becomes instrumental in affecting change.

Most of us have been sent to a seminar or a training session. We get all fired up and then come back to the job expecting to put all these new ideas to work. What we find, however, is the rest of the team doesn’t embrace or even know or understand the wonderful new things we want to do. Their unwillingness or inability to jump on the bandwagon becomes a source of frustration. It may also become an irritant for those around you. 

Eventually, you may put the seminar binder on the shelf and stay with the old ways. But you don’t have to. There is hope.

What you have to do is spend some concentrated time looking at the environment and determine where you can insert the new ideas to get the biggest bang for your effort. You have to create an environment that will be receptive, and you have to nurture and support those who will move with you. You also have to communicate to those who surround your new environment to make sure they know what you are about.

What you are doing is cultural change. A large part of this is also fixing the stumbling blocks that resist where you are going. That doesn’t mean you have to get rid of them; it means you have to get them adapted and maybe even have them integrated to be a future support. This can easily become a part of the annual performance review that seems to frequently get overlooked.

You also have to be mindful of the new people coming into the organization. They may have ideas that are different or even counter to what you are trying to achieve. Don’t forget, they also didn’t get all that communication you shared with folks when you were laying your groundwork.

One of the best ways to help with the cultivation of the new folks is to make sure the new ideas become part of the orientation programs. Make sure the people who are recruiting for the organization have a strong foundation in the new culture you are trying to develop.

Now back to the issue of skills. Judging good or bad skills in many instances is a perception of relevance. You need to see the skills in light of the immediate needs and how they fit with the people who hope to optimize the skills and what is perceived to be the needs of the organization in the not-too-distant future. A person may have training or experience that works very effectively in one set of circumstances, but not so well in another. Selection of a person to fill an immediate job or a job that will be a likely assignment soon is a tricky business.

What you are doing is considering a bunch of moving parts — some faster than others — and trying to find a set of skills or experiences that will help you move the parts in the way that fits with what you are trying to achieve — whether that is cultural change, fixing a broken process, or aligning staff with specific objectives.

Remember: Whether the skills the person brings to the job are exactly right or some development is required, it is likely a little nurturing is necessary to get the outcomes you desire. There is also that little matter of the candidate or employee and their perspective in the matter. They may think your interviewing skills or management skills suck. Getting everyone lined up in a timely manner is what management is all about.

Ardon L. Schambers is principal and president of P3HR Consulting & Services in Grand Rapids.

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