About 20 years ago, a group of Jewish and Arab parents whose children had attended the same private nursery school in Jerusalem wanted their children to continue to study together rather than be separated by Israel’s religiously segregated education system. So rather than sending their children to the usual Jewish and Muslim public schools, they started a new school calledHand in Hand.
At first there were fewer than 20 children, all in kindergarten, who studied in a spare room in one of the city’s schools. The school grew along with the children, adding a grade as they got older and bringing in a new group of kindergarteners each autumn. It now welcomes kids up to the 12th grade.
To help build relationships between Arabs and Jews, the nonprofit organization Hand in Hand now runs six schools with more than 1,800 students around the country. It was a winner in the nonprofit category of the WeWork Creator Awards, held in Jerusalem on June 20.
“We are not going to wait until peace comes to live together,” says Noa Yammer, who oversees international engagement for the non-profit organization. “We are just going to do it now.”
Besides six schools (and two more in the planning stages), the organization offers a variety of community programs for children and adults.
“We realized that we can’t just build a shared society through children,” says Yammer. “Adults also need to interact.”
Yammer says that the segregation within Israeli society — which is about 20 percent Arab — takes its toll on the country. It helps fuel the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which made headlines again in May during protests around Israel Independence Day.
But Yammer acknowledges that the intensity of the conflict isn’t going to go away overnight. The anger on each side is too entrenched.
“We live in a violent conflict,” Yammer says. “There’s a reason people are afraid. Our project is not an easy project. It’s actually a really hard thing to do in the conflict we live in, but it’s important.”
Dahlia Peretz, a principal at Hand in Hand starting in 2001, says that the school is designed to help students see past the conflict.
“In our divided society, relationships between Jewish and Arab children can succeed only if parties meet as equals, without any feelings of alienation,” she says. “We created a school where all children feel their languages and cultures have a legitimate place, a school where intercultural exchange can take place despite the unequal balance of power in our society.”
In addition to expanding its network of schools, Hand in Hand is developing a curriculum that any school — regardless of religious affiliation — can use to better educate children about tolerance.
The organization sees a growing interest all over the country, with more than 1,000 children on the waiting lists for the Hand in Hand schools. A win at the Creator Awards could help expand the program.
“This really needs to be a project in every city in Israel,” Yammer says. “We just need more resources so we can say yes to those asking us to come.”
The same day that Chanel confirmed the death of longtime creative director Karl Lagerfeld, the French luxury house made another announcement, naming studio director Virginie Viard as his successor.
The news was monumental for several reasons. For one, Chanel is one of the most celebrated brands in the world, and few people outside the industry knew Viard’s name before last month, though she worked alongside Lagerfeld for more than 30 years.
For another, as theNew York Times put it in a 2015 piece, “fashion is notoriously bad at succession planning,” so for the company to have an heir waiting in the wings before the rumor mill could start churning was an achievement in itself.
Many designers and industry executives have struggled in recent years to find the right person to whom to pass the baton and the right time to do it. Last year, Diane von Furstenberg rehired former creative director Nathan Jenden after Jonathan Saunders—whom von Furstenberg once called “the perfect creative force to lead DVF into the future”—resigned less than two years into his tenure. In November, J.Crew announced that CEO Jim Brett would exit the company just 16 months after taking the reins from legendary chief Mickey Drexler; a committee of four executives is currently in charge as the retailer searches for a replacement. The house of Oscar de la Renta, too, is on its second round of creative directors since the designer’s death in 2014.
Fashion is hardly alone in its challenges with succession planning. According to Ronald Friedman, a partner at the accounting and advisory firm Marcum LLP, a member at New York’s WeWork 115 Broadway, the task is “probably the hardest thing” that many leadership teams have to handle. While publicly traded companies have boards that are specifically tasked with planning for the departure and replacement of executives and creative leaders (and even then, sometimes fall short of this mandate), private businesses are often ill-prepared when the time comes, particularly in the case of a death or a surprise exit.
In many cases, Friedman says, leaders “get so busy with their day-to-day life that they don’t think about succession. It’s like how a lot of people don’t think about buying life insurance until it’s too late, right? Because they’re not proactive; they’re more reactive.”
The past two years, in particular, have highlighted the urgent need for companies of all sizes to have a plan in place in case a key leader leaves or needs to be removed unexpectedly, as the #MeToo movement has led to the dismissal or resignation of numerous executives across seemingly every industry.
This kind of abrupt transition can be destabilizing for a company, says Elizabeth Zea, co-founder and managing partner of JUEL, an executive search and talent consultancy, and a member at New York’s WeWork 54 W. 40th St. In these situations, she says, companies “might want to bring in an interim leader to steady things—and that could be the chairman of the board, or it could be a past leader, or if not the chairman, then a board member.”
For instance, after Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich was forced to resign last June over revelations that he had a consensual relationship with a subordinate, the company promoted CFO Robert Swan to the role of interim CEO. In January, Swan took the top role permanently.
A planned retirement allows for much more advance preparation, but many businesses still wait too long to act. “In general, succession planning should happen a lot earlier than most people think it should,” says Zea. “If you’re starting to think, ‘I need a successor,’ you’re almost too late. It should just be part of the culture of the company.” If an executive wants to leave at age 55, she says, “Don’t start looking at 53. You should start looking at 47, understanding that you want to get him or her in, try them out, make sure they’re right, and have a little bit of buffer time if they’re not.”
Even after taking every precaution, a company’s first choice may not turn out to be the best fit for the role—particularly if they are trying to fill the outsize shoes of a founder.
“With the founder, it’s their identity,” says Brenda Malloy, president of executive-search firm Herbert Mines Associates. “It’s a much more challenging search. And culture fit is even more of a mandate because they’ve got to trust that this person understands the particular nuance of the business and the culture.”
The tech industry, in which many major companies are still founder-driven, has seen a wave of such departures in the past year, particularly within Facebook’s portfolio of companies, which lost the co-founders of both Instagram and WhatsApp in a matter of months.
These transitions tend to be much more seamless if a leader is promoted internally after years of learning the ropes, says Friedman, rather than being forced to acclimate in a matter of months. “A good leader starts giving responsibility to the successor long before he steps down,” he says. “Give them little bites of the apple. Let them learn the shipping department, let them learn the accounting department, let them learn the design department, and let them take them over and start directing the company.”
Retailer Kohl’s brought in CEO Michelle Gass in 2013—five years before longtime leader Kevin Mansell officially retired. Gass rose through the executive ranks and was promoted to CEO-elect in September 2017, giving her eight months to work alongside her predecessor before officially taking the top job.
And while CEOs and creative directors may bear the ultimate responsibility for steering the company, management teams should go a step further and identify potential successors for members of the C-suite and even below—what Malloy calls “bench succession planning.”
“At first you say, what are our critical roles? What can we not afford to have vacant?” says Zea. “And then you say, whom do we have in the organization we can start to groom to succeed this person? In most really good companies, it will be part of their bylaws for a certain level of job that the hiring person or the person in charge of that function has to have a successor or two identified.”
This also gives firms a contingency plan in case something happens to their initial pick. Last spring, Nike lost at least 11 executives—including CEO Mark Parker’s heir apparent, Nike brand president Trevor Edwards—amid charges that the company and its leaders created a hostile work environment for women and failed to adequately promote women and people of color.
Both Apple and Disney have also recently seen executives widely considered to be next in line for the CEO role exit unexpectedly (albeit under less dramatic circumstances): Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts announced in February that she was leaving the company for “new personal and professional pursuits,” while Disney’s former COO Tom Staggs departed in 2016, two years before CEO Bob Iger’s planned retirement. (Iger has since extended his contract through 2021.)
To vet potential successors for top leadership jobs, Malloy says there are several techniques that should be used in tandem: “competency-based assessments, third-party testing, and deep referencing. Those three mechanisms together are the most predictive.”
Boards or management teams can also reduce the time it might take to find an external candidate by starting the search well before a candidate is actually needed. “What that does is it cuts the recruiting time in half if you’re really systematic about it. So instead of a search taking 12 months, it might take four to six months because you’ve already met five fantastic CFOs over the last two to three years,” says Zea. “Proactive pipelining of talent is another way to externally succession plan smartly.”
When Yemi Adewunmi co-founded Civic Eagle, a company that provides legislative tracking software for policy professionals, in 2015, it was conceived as a mobile app for citizens to gather information about their representatives and debate policy issues. But Adewunmi and her partner, Damola Ogundipe (he’s CEO and she’s the chief product officer), struggled; after more than a year on the market, and even with a presidential election looming, the app had only a few thousand downloads.
“We totally underestimated how hard it would be to create what was essentially a social network,” Adewunmi says. “It was hard to raise money and usership, and we were like, ‘Let’s go back to the drawing board.’”
They decided to repackage their idea as a business-to-business platform, serving companies and nonprofits that need to closely follow legislation. One customer is a Minnesota-based organization called Voices for Racial Justice, which uses the tool to track bills on criminal-justice reform. “We were like, ‘We should target people who are already invested in politics and are open to innovation,’” Adewumni, a WeWork Labs member at WeWork Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., says. “Failing is important. It allowed us to pivot in a better way.”
In fall 2017, they pitched the new version at “Google for Entrepreneurs Exchange: Black Founders,” a weeklong immersion program for African-American entrepreneurs. Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital signed on as their first investor, and shortly after, they were accepted into two accelerator programs. By January 2018, Adewumni says, the business had kicked off. “Now we’re much more settled—we have 12 clients and a couple more investors.”
Below, Adewunmi shares a diary of a recent workweek.
6:30 a.m. First alarm goes off.
7 a.m. Second alarm goes off, and I get my day started. Roll out of bed and make coffee while listening to my favorite morning podcasts: NPR’s “Up First” and “The Daily” from the New York Times.
8 a.m. Review my agenda for the day and make a list of my top tasks in my Productivity Planner. Check my dev team’s Airtable, which we use to manage product and engineering tasks, to see if any questions or updates await me. (Half my dev team is in Nigeria, so it’s already the afternoon for them.)
8:30-9:45 a.m. Walk to Orangetheory Fitness, about half a mile from my apartment. I’ve been a member for almost six months, and it’s been a game-changer for me. Working out has not only been great for my health, but it’s also helped me destress and build confidence. It’s become my favorite form of self-care as an entrepreneur.
10-11 a.m. Make breakfast, shower, and dress, and commute to WeWork.
11:30 a.m. Weekly stand-up meeting with the exec team. As cliché as it sounds, we don’t really have major disagreements. We understand that no one knows the right answer all the time, and all we can do is test and learn, test and learn.
1 p.m. Meet with my Techstars managing director. Techstars is like the Ivy League of accelerator programs—really hard to get into. WeWork had one of the managing directors do a coffee-table talk with us, and Damola and I applied for a cohort called Anywhere—it’s a virtual mentorship-driven program that helps set you up for success, whether it’s for fundraising or product development or user acquisition. We got into the three-month program, which started in February.
Today, Damola and I have a weekly one-on-one video call to discuss goal setting, OKRs (objectives and key results), and KPIs (key performance indicators) for the next three to six months.
2 p.m. Call with a Techstars mentor about content-marketing strategies. During the first few weeks of Techstars, our cohort (Civic Eagle and nine other startups) went through “Mentor Madness,” a series of roughly 60 20-minute meetings with experienced founders, VCs, and experts, over the course of eight days. My team scheduled followup meetings with these mentors throughout this week.
3 p.m. Take a break to meet with a fellow WeWork Labs member and jam/vent about what we’ve been working on and things that are top of mind for us. It can be hard to find people who can relate to the founder’s journey, so it’s important for me to carve out this time.
4 p.m. Finally able to start working on my tasks for the day: Write a spec for a new notifications feature; draft survey questions for an inbound-marketing push; and update the job description for an open engineering role.
6:30 p.m. Run a quick errand and head home.
7:30 p.m. Another video call with my business partner and a Techstar mentor.
8:45 p.m. Dinner.
10:30 p.m. Send emails, check Productivity Planner for tomorrow.
11 p.m. Bed.
7 a.m. Roll out of bed. I have the same routine every morning, and it’s been shaped over the past few years. As an entrepreneur, you get to make your own schedule—but to have a routine that you expect every day is really important.
8 a.m. Check my calendar, Productivity Planner, and dev-team task manager.
8:30-9:45 Work out at Orangetheory, return home, eat breakfast, and get showered and dressed.
11 a.m. Today I’m working from home. I kick the day off with a meeting with my business partner to discuss lead-gen strategy. One of our objectives is to increase our sales pipeline so we can increase our revenue.
12 p.m. Check and send emails.
2 p.m. Walk to a nearby coffee shop to catch up with a friend.
3 p.m. Back home. Have a good conversation with another founder in my Techstars cohort. I’m in a mode where I can’t quite focus on my main tasks for the day. Being a founder, you have to balance working and networking. You need to be responsive and help people when they need help (because when you need help, they can help you). But that means some days you’re not doing any head-down work.
5 p.m. Video call with my Techstars cohort and managing director.
6 p.m. Another mentor meeting.
7 p.m. Work on the Aspen Tech fellowship application.
10:30 p.m. Bed.
7 a.m. The usual morning routine.
12 p.m. Lunch with other WeWork Labs members.
1 p.m. Product strategy meeting with my CEO, CTO, and one of our full-time developers. This was a strategic deep-dive into our product/software goals and our engineering-team processes.
2:30 p.m. Techstars homework. Today I’m watching videos about customer research, discovery, and empathy interviews ahead of our group session on these subjects.
3 p.m. Session with my Techstars cohort.
4 p.m. Call with my business partner. We do a virtual whiteboarding exercise to come up with a game plan for generating new sales leads.
10:30 p.m. Finish and submit the Aspen Tech fellowship application.
12 a.m. Bed.
7 a.m. Same morning routine, including a workout. Working from home today.
12 p.m. Call with our engineers.
1 p.m. Research lead-generation, draft email campaigns, and check in with my business partner.
3 p.m. Call with a marketing expert as part of Techstars.
3:30 p.m. Eat lunch while listening to the audiobook of Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. For a while, I was skeptical of Audible, but then I realized that it works for certain types of books. Bad Blood almost sounds like a podcast, a true-crime story. I don’t think I would have wanted to read pages and pages of medical and blood jargon.
4:30 p.m. Check email and do more work on lead-gen.
7 p.m. Draft a design for an email newsletter we’re going to start sending to customers.
8 p.m. Dinner, Hulu, light work.
10 p.m. Bed.
7 a.m. It’s Friday and I’m taking my time, listening to my morning news podcasts in bed. On Fridays, my favorite tech-policy podcast,“Pivot,” releases a new episode. I also listen to “The Vergecast,” a technews podcast.
9 a.m. Listen to one of my favorite pop-culture podcasts,“The Read,” while I continue designing the customer newsletter from last night.
10 a.m. Listen to Bad Blood while getting a pedicure.
12:30 p.m. Head home for my weekly Techstars all-hands meeting, which we use to probe each other’s businesses and offer support. Each team reviews the OKRs and KPIs they’ll be tracking for the upcoming week. It’s a great learning experience.
2 p.m. Work on designing a new landing page and the email newsletter.
5 p.m. My last mentor meeting of the week. Hurray!
7 p.m. Dinner, wine, and The Umbrella Academy on Netflix. I’ve had an unusual number of meetings this week, and it’s been challenging to keep up with all the useful information that I’m learning, but it’s incredibly rare to be able to have access to such a group of experienced professionals. I don’t take it for granted.
Nadine Abramcyk and Ariane Goldman have a lot in common. For a time, they both worked at American Express. They’re both moms. And they both started successful businesses after being disappointed by the apparel and beauty offerings that were once available to them.
During a recent talk at Made By We in New York, Abramcyk, co-founder of natural nail care brand tenoverten,and Goldman, founder and CEO of maternity clothing retailer Hatch and bridesmaid brand Twobirds, waxed poetic on the importance of self-belief and trial and error, and discussed their philosophies on building a business.
Their multimillion-dollar brands have, in a relatively short time, cultivated high-profile followings, and drawn investor dollars along with them. Hatch, which raised a $1.7 million seed round in 2013, has seen its garments worn by celebrities like Natalie Portman, Kourtney Kardashian, and Gwen Stefani. Kate Hudson and Gwyneth Paltrow, meanwhile, have publicly expressed their love of tenoverten’s polishes and nail art.
Now several years into their businesses, Abramcyk and Goldman have found 2019 to be off to a promising start. In February, after 18 months of negotiations, tenoverten secured a national contract with Target, allowing the boutique brand to roll out into 800 Target stores by spring. And in January, Hatch got royal approval, literally, when Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle wore one of Hatch’s knit dresses to an engagement in London.
But neither Abramcyk nor Goldman experienced these successes overnight. It took years of dedicated, relentless hard work to fill those gaps they once saw in the market. Here’s how they did it.
Listen to your needs first. After first working in the small business marketing department at American Express out of college,Abramcyk was running Mick Margo, a West Village clothing boutique she opened in 2006, when the idea for tenoverten first took shape.
“[My business partner, Adair Ilyinsky, and I] were both in jobs we were a little bit frustrated and stunted by,” she says. “We would get our nails done together all the time and we thought, Wow, we could so improve on this.’”
When the pair was getting manicures, Abramcyk says, the experience never lived up to their desired standard—or even met the expectations they had of a New York nail salon. Of the “aha moment,” she says: “This is something we want, so let’s create it ourselves.” So in 2010, they founded tenoverten, opening the first location in Tribeca.
Goldman had a similar realization while planning her wedding; she just wasn’t finding bridesmaid dresses that both flattered and catered to all of her female friends. “[I couldn’t find] bridesmaid dresses that made all of my girls feel great, with their different body types—dresses they could wear again after the wedding,” she says.
While climbing the corporate ladder at American Express, she made dresses on the side, frequenting New York’s Garment District to buy yards of Spandex and visit pattern makers to fashion dresses for her own wedding. In 2007, Goldman left her full-time marketing job at the financial-services company to launch Twobirds. One of her earliest customers, a publicist, booked Goldman an appearance on The Martha Stewart Show. “From then on, the phones didn’t stop ringing,” she remembers.
Hatch, which Goldman founded in 2011, was born of the same kind of personal discovery. While pregnant with her first daughter, she couldn’t find simple, comfortable maternity clothes that appealed to her personal style. Hatch entered the picture much in the same way Twobirds did: solving a very personal problem that Goldman herself—and as it turns out, leagues of others, who would later become her dedicated customers—encountered.
Stay true to your vision. Though both Abramcyk and Goldman were certain their businesses addressed a need, they still had doubts—and encountered doubters—along the way.
Goldman’s mother-in-law, for instance, implored her not to give up her American Express job, which provided health insurance for Goldman and her husband; Ilyinsky’s mom expressed skepticism that a nail business could take off in a city with a salon on every corner. Tenoverten also took a stand against gel manicures—which do not generally align with its nontoxic mission—at a time when the gel business was booming.
“We stood for clean beauty, and that was another hurdle,” says Abramcyk. “People asked us how we could build a business like that and warned us that we were going to turn people away.” But the company stayed the course. “I think you have to have your brand pillars and stick to those,” she says.
Advance at your own pace. The event’s moderator Aya Kanai, chief fashion director at Hearst Magazines titles Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Seventeen, Good Housekeeping, and Redbook, asked the entrepreneurs if they thought about their “failure résumé,” or a list of rejections compiled to serve as an instructive, motivating reminder of progress and experience.
Goldman recalls being seven months pregnant when she decided to raise financing for Hatch for the first time. “I was sitting on a stoop outside my apartment, hysterically crying after maybe 10, 12 meetings with these male-driven firms,” she remembers. “It was exhausting. I needed help, and I wasn’t at my best because I was also nurturing a baby in my belly. And so I decided to pause the race. And I felt like a failure.” But in retrospect, Goldman now says the hiatus was “the greatest possible move I could have made.”
Amid their successes, the women continue to grow their businesses thoughtfully. Both Twobirds and Hatch adopted a profit-oriented mentality—with the maximum to be reinvested back into the business—early on, and Goldman says this set the tone for her brands’ deliberate and controlled growth.
A direct-to-consumer brand, Hatch was online-only until late 2017, when it opened a brick-and-mortar store on Manhattan’s Bleecker Street. A second destination, a flagship-style store in Santa Monica, open last year.
Putting aside financial gains and glowing public reception (from civilians and royals alike), Goldman says she refused to get swept away by early wins. “[Entrepreneur] friends of mine are kind of going superfast, while I’m kind of driving the speed limit,” she says, keeping her business at a pace for slow, sustained growth.
Commit to communication from day one. Abramcyk adds that she feels a huge—and grounding—sense of responsibility to her 250-plus tenoverten staff members across the company’s head office and four New York locations, as well as its singular salons in Los Angeles and Austin. Especially in light of the New York Times’s landmark 2015 investigation highlighting severe underpayment and mistreatment at nail salons, Abramcyk was determined to build a communicative, democratic workplace, along with an insistence on clean and safe working environments.
In addition to quarterly meetings with staff, tenoverten hosts regular one-on-one reviews with all of its employees. The company has also put employee comment boxes at every workplace. “For us, it was about stepping back and saying, ‘We’re asking these women to show up and be their best every day. Let’s treat them with respect and have opportunities where their voices can really be heard,’” says Abramcyk.
In all, Abramcyk and Goldman both encouraged eager audience members to pursue their business ideas, especially the ones that might seem very simple to you. “You hear all the time, ‘That’s such a good idea—I should have done it,’ or, ‘That could have been mine,’” says Goldman. “And it could be anyone’s idea.”
“What makes the difference is actually doing it,” she continues. “It takes a lot of courage to make that first step, and to take a chance on leaving insurance and your day job and believing in yourself.”
Welcome to How to Thrive at Work, a series by Creator and Thrive Global about how to enhance your productivity, well-being, and happiness in the workplace
We’re told again and again that change is good—but when it comes to change at work, it doesn’t always feel that way.
Whether change is expected (a move to new office space) or a surprise (corporate merger), it’s easy to focus in on the potential negatives. You could get laid off, lose your five-minute commute, or suddenly find yourself uncomfortable at a job where you were quite comfortable, thanks very much. Having strong workplace connections can help see you through the change, but any stress is likely to affect all areas of your life.
Employees experiencing recent or current change were more than twice as likely to report chronic work stress compared with employees who reported no recent, current, or anticipated change (55 percent vs. 22 percent)—and more than four times as likely to report experiencing physical health symptoms at work (34 percent vs. 8 percent), according to results from the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2017 Work and Well-Being Survey.
“Good change, bad change—we know from psychological research, it’s stressful no matter what,” says David Ballard, director of applied psychology for the APA. “Half of the U.S. workforce [has] been affected by change in the past year, and those who have were more than twice as likely to report day-to-day stress. They experienced physical symptoms at work including headaches, muscle stiffness, back and joint aches. They ate or smoked more during the workday than they typically did.”
Sounds awful—and yet change is not only inevitable, it’s essential. It’s impossible to innovate, grow, and stay competitive without it. It’s worth making small tweaks to your daily habits to foster that growth. Because the employees who can ride out the change—thrive during it, really—are the ones who will emerge most successful.
Ready to meet that next challenge head-on, managing yourself, your team, or your entire company through anticipated or sudden change? These expert strategies will help everyone come out on the other side feeling included, energized, and ready for what comes next.
If you’re on the receiving end of change
Manage your own reaction. First, be honest with yourself about what you’re thinking and feeling. Panicked? Anxious? Acknowledge it, rather than bury it. Second, express those feelings to someone who will listen without judgment. “Often the process of expression will help us feel more understood and calm,” says Alan Wolfelt, founder of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, even if that other person isn’t “solving” anything. And third, after we have mourned our feelings about the losses of change (it’s healthy to grieve a comfortable job or convenient commute), we can work to find our best path forward by asking ourselves what the best outcomes of these changes.
Get involved. Whether you’re the change leader or just the ride-along, engagement is a shared responsibility, Ballard says. Employees are more likely to trust their employers during times of change when they feel involved in decision-making and when there is effective communication and transparency, he says.
And you don’t always have to wait to be asked. “Make your voice heard. Be part of decisions and activities, and be motivated and driven to participate in that process,” he says. “Raise issues when needed so concerns can be addressed.”
Find the silver linings. Once you know change is imminent—you can’t dodge it—start systematically looking for opportunities that might emerge because of it, advises John Kotter, author of Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions. “Emotionally our minds typically go to the hazards first because that’s just the way our brains are structured,” he says. “What we need to do is go beyond that and search for those opportunities, which, if we are smart, we can often exploit.”
Faced with an underqualified new boss? Picking up the slack will not only help you develop your skill set, it will earn loyalty from your manager. Dreading a company reorg that will put you in a different department with new responsibilities? Think the impressive new keywords you can add to your LinkedIn profile.
“Opportunities come along with challenges,” says Ballard. “If anything in life is ever going to get better, things have to change. When you can learn from change—even difficult change—and come out on other side not just having navigating and survived, but having developed new skills, you can apply those lessons in life to be more successful and happier.”
If you’re leading the change
Communicate your mission. Managers and workplace leaders have an extra responsibility to make sure workers adapt well to both surprise (a recession, for example) and anticipated change (like a merger or takeover), says Ballard. “If you want to function effectively as an organization, then as an employer, you need to create an environment where change isn’t going to wind up disrupting employees’ lives and end up hurting the business in the long run,” he says. “Even if you are changing in a positive direction, you want everyone aligned—because if you inadvertently wind up creating higher levels of stress and distrust, it can backfire on the changes you’re promoting.” It’s impossible to get your startup to pivot on a dime when half the team doesn’t understand why it’s even necessary—and how their roles will evolve.
You can’t over-broadcast the benefits that will come with change. Nectar Sleep founder Craig Schmeizer is leading his company through an office move, from WeWork 524 Broadway in New York to a company facility that will be operated by WeWork. “There is some work around getting people to understand how great the space is, that it’s in a great area of town,” he says. “And there will also be follow-through as employees get in there, making sure energy level is high, hosting parties, gatherings, and highlighting new ways of using the space.”
Liz Welch, senior director of people operations at Sonos, which is a member at Seattle’s WeWork Holyoke Building, says there is a bias to share more, rather than less, information. “We are more likely to share information earlier and in a less complete state, simply because we believe people should know as early as possible about things that can affect them,” she says. “We’ll tell teams, ‘Here’s what I know, here’s what I don’t know, and here’s when you will know more.’”
Recognize that people react differently to change. Welch has found that people react to change on a continuum—and there is no right or wrong way. “There are people who have a great bounce, who adjust quickly,” she explains. “They’re innately excited about change and can quickly translate it into opportunity, innovation, and optimism.” And then there are those who like the status quo. “Many people get a sinking feeling in their stomach—that gut feeling that says, ‘I don’t know, this is kinda scary, I don’t really like it.’” In between? The rest of us. “Most people have some misgivings about almost any change, even if on the face of it’s a great one,” she says.
To navigate any change effectively, it’s not only important to know your own reaction to change, but also those of the people on your team. “Leaders who are architects of change need to be attentive to all the people along that continuum and not leave anyone behind,” she says.
Don’t dismiss those slower to adapt. “It’s easy for anyone to judge people who move more slowly toward the acceptance end of the continuum and think they look like whiners,” Welch says. “But those people bring tremendous strength that correlates to a strong dislike of ambiguity or change. They can be deeply convicted, they can be deeply loyal—both good things. You never want to lose people just because they took longer to adjust to change,” she says. “Better to adapt yourself as an organization around those people, rather than get them to hustle up or lose them.”