AirplaneI was flying back from Seattle on Saturday after teaching a leadership class and the turbulence was significant due to stormy weather in the area. The person seated next to me confirmed that he didn’t like significant turbulence and I’m sure by the look on my face, he could tell I didn’t either. The plane was climbing fairly quickly, but the turbulence seemed to get worse versus better – no one was moving around and the silence was “loud.” Finally, after about ten minutes, we got above the weather and everything, and everyone, settled in more comfortably for the flight home.

What is it about turbulence that is so disruptive? Perhaps it’s the feeling of being out of control and helpless to do anything to help or influence the situation and decisions being made. Or, it could be the fear of the unknown and recognizing that you don’t have a clue about what is really going on or being discussed in the cockpit. Finally, it may be the fear that someone else is making all of the decisions and reviewing reasonable options without any input or discussion with those on board.  Clearly, our fate and well being is in the hands of someone we’ve never met or just briefly saw.

Stressed out BusinesswomanSound familiar? These same emotions and fears are the ones many people experience when the company they work for announces a change, be it a reorganization, downsizing, new CEO or merger. That uncomfortable feeling and belief that you have no influence on the outcome or the ability to hear and respond to the different options being discussed is disconcerting, and
scary. It’s another situation where an individual does not have any control – or do you?

During significant change, leaders have the opportunity to be seen as influencers of change versus blockers. The ability to stay focused on the business and the people during a time of disruption and/or change communicates strong competencies to the company. In fact, people have been able to reposition themselves within a business by demonstrating the ability to handle adversity professionally with a resilient mindset and calming influence.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Resist the urge to spread gossip or to share the latest “grapevine news.” Oftentimes, it’s not totally accurate anyway and you become part of the rumor mill – not an empowered place to be.
  • Recognize that senior leaders are watching to see who is leading the organization in a proactive and productive manner. It’s in times of adversity that leaders can shine the brightest.
  • Focus your energy on managing through the change or, if you believe you won’t retained, direct your efforts to getting another position. Being passive during a change puts you in a “victim state.” Take action to influence the best outcome possible.

Just like the flight from Seattle, the company will eventually rise above the “turbulence” and everything will smooth out. Your goal is to make sure you keep flying!