What kind of change?

BonnieHutchinsonThe following article is a guest post from Bonnie Hutchinson.

As a business owner, you know that things are always changing and you need to shift and change accordingly. (Sandy Martini is one of the people who helps us do that.) But what kind of change are we experiencing? It makes a difference.

Technical and adaptive change. One kind of change – technical change – can be handled with our existing skills. Another kind of change – adaptive change –requires us to transition to a new level of development. A characteristic of adaptive change is we cannot just apply existing skills in a different way; we must feel and learn our way into the new situation and maybe even be a different kind of person.

Child example. As a child, I learned to play the piano. I learned to translate something I could see (printed music) into finger movements on a keyboard. As a teenager, I learned to type. Although I had never used a typing keyboard, it was easy to learn because I already knew how to translate something I could see into automatic finger motions. For me, learning to type was a technical challenge.

For typing students who were learning for the first time to use a keyboard without looking at their fingers, learning to type was an adaptive challenge. They had to create new eye-brain-finger pathways that did not already exist.

Adult example. Sometimes when people move from a front-line or technical job to a management position, they discover their technical expertise does not equip them for new responsibilities. For example, technical skills may not help in managing people or collaborating with other managers.

When I became the executive director of a multi-community preventive social service program, I actually said, “I don’t want to deal with politics. I just want to do my job.” I soon discovered that politics was my job! Learning to deal with politics and power dynamics was an adaptive challenge requiring not only new skills but a new attitude.

Business owners who start a business to pursue their passion soon discover that the business demands more of them than being an expert in their field of passion. That is likely an adaptive challenge.

Why does this matter?

When some part of your life is changing – when you’re in a transition – it’s almost certain that you face adaptive challenges as well as technical challenges. Past coping strategies may not help. For adaptive challenges, we need to pull on inner resources we didn’t know we had.

Three practices may be helpful.

  1. Be patient with yourself. You really are out of your depth (temporarily), so don’t expect your usual level of competence.
  2. Find a mentor, someone who has experience with your new situation and can help you discover new inner abilities.
  3. Go inward. Here’s a visualization to help you tap into inner wisdom you may not have needed before.

Imagine that inside you is a wise and highly-evolved guide. Find a quiet private spot, relax and take a few deep breaths. Imagine you can speak with that wise inner guide. Ask your questions; ask the guide to help you mature into the wisdom required in your new situation. When you feel ready, imagine you are that wise guide. Consider your new situation from the perspective of that highly evolved self. After a few minutes, you’ll probably feel complete. Come back to your regular awareness and use what you have imagined as you move forward.

Useful questions: Think of some changes you’re experiencing right now.

  • Which ones are technical challenges? (You have the basic skills but may have to use what you know in a new way OR you can delegate this challenge to someone else.)
  • Which ones are adaptive challenges? (They require skills or personal qualities that you have not yet developed and at least some part of what’s required cannot be delegated.)
  • How will you get support as you master both kinds of challenges?

Like the above? Check out an excerpt of Bonnie’s best-selling book Transitions: Pathways to the Life and World Your Soul Desires at www.BonnieHutchinson.com/excerpt or pick up the entire book at Amazon here.