The past 18 months have been a crash course in change and uncertainty. Almost overnight, we reimagined what an office can look like. We redefined workplace rules and communication norms.
You may have experienced waves of uncertainty about your own job, your colleagues, or your company’s future. You may have had your dreams dashed, or had new dreams emerge.
Collectively, we learned that we can adapt. But by and large, we were forced to adapt. A pandemic flipped our world upside down, and we had little choice in the matter. Nevertheless, I reckon you’ve been thinking: I can’t wait for all this change to end.
And yet, change isn’t ending. Quite the opposite: it’s accelerating. While 2020 may have felt like a sprint, we’re now recognizing that we’re running a marathon with uncertainty. As April Rinne, author of Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change, says: Our “new-now-next-never normal” is here to stay… and will keep changing. This requires a wholesale shift in how we think about and relate to change, period. It requires what she calls a Flux Mindset: The ability to consistently see change as an opportunity, not a threat.
Whether you’re leading an organization, managing a team, or just trying to map your own professional journey, here are three tips from Rinne on how to develop a Flux Mindset and reshape a healthy long-term relationship to change.
1. Put mindset before strategy
Organizational strategy typically focuses on “change management” as a set of systems, processes, and decisions. It typically doesn’t include the state of mind of the managers themselves. Yet think about the last time you had to deal with a big change. Did you feel hopeful, fearful, or anxious about it? Would you have made a different decision (or set a different strategy) if you’d felt differently?
When we focus on external systems or decisions, without recognizing the critical role of our internal state of mind first, we put the cart before the horse. Successfully navigating, managing, and leading through change comes from the inside-out.
2. Reframe your relationship to control
One of the things that a world in flux teaches us is that as much as we’d like to believe we can control the future, what we seek is merely an illusion of control. The fact remains that neither you nor anyone can control what happens this afternoon, much less next year. What you can control, however, is how you respond. You can’t control a specific outcome, but you can control whether and how to contribute to an outcome you’d like to see.
This is often bitter medicine to swallow. Yet great leaders in a world in flux know how to leverage it well. As Rinne says, “Fluxy leaders acknowledge what they don’t know and what they can’t control. They seek clarity of vision, rather than certainty of outcome. They also ask others for help, unlocking far more agency and creativity in the process.”
3. Think collectively and culturally
The word “flux” is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it means constant change. As a verb, it means to learn to become fluid. There are as many different relationships to change as there are people, because each of us has different experiences with change.
All too often, we assume that others “think like us” about change and uncertainty. This assumption is risky at best, and often dangerous — especially when unexpected or seismic change hits. Rinne has seen numerous teams struggle to cooperate, and leaders struggle to inspire, not necessarily because they disagree about goals, but because they have different relationships to (and feelings about) change itself.
In contrast, high-performing companies understand this tension and seek to help all talent develop a Flux Mindset. As we face a future of work with myriad unknowns, a company’s “fluxiness” will be an increasingly important metric of organizational culture, connectedness, and success.
Even as we approach the return to offices, flux is still here. We know that more change — and more uncertainty, more surprises, and more unknowns — are on the horizon. Arguably we’re still in the early stages of seismic shifts that will shape a “world in flux” for decades to come. It’s time to think beyond adaptability or resilience and reshape how we think about, talk about, and relate to change, period. Are you ready to flux?