Signpost - uncertain about a change

I am on the train on my way home after a briefing in Melbourne. Preparing a big move, I am now uncertain on how to feel about that step.  This is what I do when I am uncertain about a change.

When I feel uncertain about a change and feel stuck, I answer 4 questions to get unstuck

I just spent 3 full days with 40 people in briefings and focused discussions.  We are all taking a big step, volunteering overseas.  I will be the Marketing and Business Mentor of a social enterprise in East Timor.  The job and I are a great match on paper. Why then am I stuck on how to feel about it?

On day two we did an icebreaker exercise: introduce yourself with an adjective and finish it off with a little dance. I was ‘Careering’ Carina with a pose I hope looked like a toned-down version of a chorus girl with her leg stretched out. 

Careering when uncertain about a change

Careering in the sense of ‘moving swiftly and in an uncontrollable way’ (Lexicon.com). I felt this way because it is a big move and it is normal to be uncertain about a change.

My range of feelings relating to the decision of taking on the East Timor assignment was extensive:

  • Confidence (“I can do this job”)
  • Embarrassment (“I completely goofed in this scenario. Others got it but I completely forgot what I wanted to say”)
  • Annoyance (“Why all this focus on Fiji”)
  • Relief (“Phew, the final day and I get it!”)
  • Escapism (“I think I stay a little longer in the ladies’ room to gather energy to keep up the compulsory participation expectation”)
  • Impatience (“My story about the bus leaving me behind and my actions to catch up is just perfect for that “what would you do if” question”)
  • Frustration (“Someone is stealing my spotlight and I cannot get rid of all my entertaining anecdotes”)
  • Numbness (“I am actually going to do this!”)  

Planning for a change

Preparing for absolutely everything that may happen is impossible. What I do is create a smooth transition by planning for a change. Planning helps me stay on track. The outcome of my plans also serves as a handle to hold on to, especially when I feel uncertain about a change and I go ‘careering’ with my thoughts and feelings. 

I start with asking four questions to frame my change.  I used a business tool from the WA government as a guide. It includes templates for risk assessments, organisational change readiness checklists and training plans. 

1. What will happen and why 

What will happen is that I change jobs. The Job is still in fair trade but with a different focus. I am going from self-employed to being employed, and in a new environment. It will mean a shift in work/life balance and level of autonomy.

2. What this means in practice

In practice this means that I will apply my knowledge and skills at the producer end of the fair trade spectrum.  I will achieve outcomes through consultation and third party determined processes, and I will be financially dependent on my host. It will be a move away from Australia impacting current business and personal circumstances.  

3. What is my Responsibility

My responsibility is to manage relationships with family/friends, business partners, assignment manager and host. To counter and plan for resistance in personal readiness, practical issues and challenges, and build in contingency where possible.  To prepare useful documentation and prepare mentally for the change.

4. What is my Action Plan

My Action Plan will include communication online, in person and in writing, regular and promptly, to keep all stakeholders up to date. Research on the location and monitoring of progress. Update business records and provide system access to relevant stakeholders.

Frame thoughts to plan the details

From this base I create a more detailed change management plan using the templates in the workbook.

In change management, the size of the business is irrelevant as the principles are the same. Big business tools are relevant and useful for the micro-entrepreneur like myself. For more useful change management tools, visit this website by the South Australia Government.

I always ‘listen’ to my feelings when I make business and personal decisions because my well-being is top priority. Read more on health at work in my post on how I move past a down mood at work

I see opportunities when I combine feelings with ideas.  Asking questions puts everything in a frame and it stops me ‘careering’ off track.

 “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. “Benjamin Franklin.  

Me – Nov 2019
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