Change of Plans

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-by Matt Leedham

Plans change. That’s a fact.

How people react to change is very interesting. Have you noticed that some people seem very relaxed and go with the flow when things change unexpectedly? And how others seem quite flustered when things don’t go exactly as planned? Which one are you…and why?

5 days ago I ended up in the Emergency Room in Chicago. I didn’t plan for that.

Finding Value in Change
One day after arriving in the Windy City for one of the most significant EO events of the year, I experienced excruciating pain in my lower back as I crossed the street. I literally stopped in the middle of the street as a tried to register what just happened.

I’ve had lower back problems for years and this felt oddly familiar to my worst back injury 3 years ago that had me bedridden for nearly a week. I slowly hobbled to the JW Marriott and hooked up with my colleagues. I tried to stick it out for a few hours, but the pain and stiffness in my back was just too much. I couldn’t even concentrate on the meetings, and the pain must have been written all over my face, because my colleagues insisted I get help.

I headed to the Emergency Room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. I was promptly fed a handful of narcotics which actually had very little effect on the pain caused by what turned out to be a herniated disc. I was shot up with more drugs and was finally comfortable enough to leave the hospital. However, I left with four prescriptions of various narcotics and instructions to take them four times a day for the next four days, rendering me completely useless to my team.

As much as I didn’t plan to miss the most important conference of the year, my teammates certainly didn’t plan for me to miss all of my duties and responsibilities. However, because they were primed for constant change, they successfully adapted to my absence without skipping a beat. In fact, they did it so well that I am left questioning my own necessity on the team!

What benefits and opportunities can you identify in times of change or chaos? I realized that I have a great team behind me that has my back and will get the job done.

Priming for Change
5 years ago Jaime and I worked at a start-up education firm in DC where we had two expressions that summed up our experience.

ACH – Anything Can Happen
COP – Change of Plans

“ACH” was used as an expression of humor and relief at the end of a long day. “COP” was used more as a greeting which indicated that something crazy was going to happen and that I should brace myself for change. Literally, I would get a call on my cell phone and the first thing I would hear is: “COP.” What came next could be anything – e.g. writing up a proposal, picking up an international visitor from the airport, planning an event for that evening, etc. It didn’t matter. If I heard the letters COP, I was prepared to do anything.

Are you primed for change? What can you do to mentally prepare for change if you know it’s likely to happen?

Companies hire for adaptability and willingness to be creative in constantly changing environments. It’s an important skill to have if you want to be successful.

Are you prepared for change? How do you react when things get turned upside down? I encourage you to be flexible as there is often a hidden opportunity amidst the change.

For me, the opportunity this week that resulted from my back injury was the amazing performance of my team at work. My trust in them skyrocketed and they delivered on a great opportunity to demonstrate teamwork, one of our core values.


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