Management Matters: Can You Make Change?

What is it that allows some people to take things in stride? What creates that runaway imagination, causing others to picture the worst-case scenario? If you have ever wondered about the differences between people who see a glass as half-full or half-empty, you aren’t alone.

Roles to Play

When something happens that catapults you into a stress response, there are a variety of ways to react. We all rely on three basic roles. Although we each have our favorite role that feels the most comfortable, we depend on all of them at different times. The challenge is to recognize which role you use the most and to work toward the role that helps you handle change in a positive and productive manner.

Victim – Feeling powerless, these are the sufferers. As the injured party, this reaction allows people to view any change that creates stress as inevitable. They think life is just a series of negative events strung together with meals and sleep. Although this is the easiest role to play, it should be adopted the least. When you decide to play the victim, at least understand why you are choosing it.

Survivor – These are the people who endure what life dishes out. Perceiving that they have no power, they will do what they have to do in order to get through --- BUT with anger or resentment. Carrying the list of hardships along with them wherever they go, they can recite what they have had to endure at the drop of a hat. A step above the role of the victim, the survivor is a popular role. Sometimes, we all need to camp out in this role for a while, but try not to stay put in this less-than-productive coping style.

Navigator – Thinking that they have some power in life, these are the folks who figure out what they CAN do. Once they get a clear focus on the present and the future they are aiming for, they pilot their way through the storm. This is a proactive and empowering role to play. Not everyone can play the navigator all the time. But you can behave like a navigator, and you can eventually achieve this positive style.

We have all three of these perspectives within us, as we move from one role to another from day to day. There are a variety of factors that go into the mix, that help determine which role we tend to favor.

  • Nature – our own personality, our genetic make-up
  • Nurture – the way we were raised
  • Experience – our own life history
  • Education/Training – what we have read, observed or learned from others

Like a R-O-C

What helps us move through change and stress more efficiently is a trio of traits and behaviors that are braided together to form a strong line that connects us to the future.

Resiliency – a buoyant spirit that reveals hardiness and an ability to bounce back

Optimism – a hopefulness that carries a cheerful outlook

Confidence – a belief in yourself and your ability to succeed

Confidence is often the leader behind which resiliency and optimism march, though it can become a “chicken and egg” type of discussion, trying to determine which you need first in order to obtain the rest.

We Are Not Like Them

As universal as change is, it is still your unique and individual personal response that determines how well you manage our way through it. You may hear leaders exhort the one-style-fits-all way of dealing with change because we are all in the same organization, industry or situation. But the “we,” “us” and “ours” that are talked about don’t exist in your personal world. No one else has your unique nature, your upbringing, life experience or knowledge. That’s why everyone must learn to navigate change from his or her own unique perspective.

If you wish you could handle change and the stress that comes along with it better than you do, take heart. While personality and history are fixed, education and experience are not. People have a huge capacity to learn and grow. There are times when the best thing you can do is “fake it ‘till you make it.” I’m not suggesting that you be a phony; I propose behaving in the manner that you know you should or want to, until navigating change becomes second nature.

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management training and development consulting practice that specializes in developing human resources in the areas of leadership and management training, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 25 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at

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