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Why the ability to embrace change has become the number one skill

  • Written by Seamus Cushley, Product Development Site Lead at Bazaarvoice.

    Like many people leading businesses, I’ve thought and read a lot about change over the past 18 months.

    Most of us have experienced big changes in the way we live and work as a result of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions; from remote working to family Zoom calls to homeschooling. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t struggled with some aspect of those changes during this unusual period.

    Humans are naturally resistant to change, in fact you might even say we’re hardwired to resist it. Numerous research studies show how a specific part of our brain processes change as a threat. When faced with change we release the same fight or flight hormones as any other fear inducing experience. As a result, most of us like a degree of order in our lives.

    This resistance to change is prevalent in business too. I’m sure most of us will have experienced a situation at some stage in our careers where someone has presented an idea or initiative that clearly has a lot of benefits, only to see it shot down because of a reluctance to rock the boat or alter the status quo.

    But while there are proven psychological and physical reasons why people resist change, it’s become clear through the turmoil of recent times that the people who have coped best – from a work perspective at least – are those who have a mindset to embrace change.

    Bazaarvoice is a fast-growing business. We’ve made a number of acquisitions in a short space of time, we’re moving into new markets, connecting with new clients, and developing new products. Change is a constant. As Bazaarvoice has continued to recruit throughout the last year, this ‘embrace change’ mindset is something we’ ve been looking for in every new hire.

    In the present environment, we need people who are comfortable with change. We need professionals who can be responsive to what customers want. People who have the ability to be dynamic in seizing the opportunities created by changes in our market.

    Whatever business you’re in, if you want to be a high performing team, you can’t rely on process and doing things that make you feel safe. History is littered with stories of businesses who refused to change until it was too late.

    While many of us might be naturally conditioned to resist change, it is possible to teach people this mindset. You equip people with the skills to respond to change well by investing in them and their learning. As we move into the next phase of post-pandemic life, this has to be a major focus for all employers.

    In the current climate, most companies are conscious of the struggles their people have faced over the past 18 months, particularly younger people. And as employers start to bring people back to the office for part of the week, there is a big focus on how people are adapting and how managers should help them.

    But I’m not sure there’s been enough focus on how people in lead positions have coped with all of this. Most people in leadership positions have not been through anything like this before in life, and I don’t think anyone has really considered what it means to lead in a time of unprecedented change.

    This generation of leaders has had to learn to adapt rapidly under extreme circumstances, often without much support, and it can prove to be difficult. While there’s still an underlying desire to “get back to how things were before Covid” we have to accept that the potential for dramatic change is going to be part of life for a while. We need to build that into leadership training for key talent.

    Our focus at Bazaarvoice is on growing a team of highly skilled professionals who want to strive for excellence, and create a world class product development organisation. We recently passed 100 employees in Belfast, but it’s not a numbers game for us. It's about finding people with the right skills and attitude, to move us closer to our customers so we can deeply understand their problems and help solve them. Building a collective mindset that enables us to embrace change is going to be essential to reaching that goal.

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