Navigating change.

Another great lesson I was reminded of at the seminar I attended this week was the concept of embracing change. One of the biggest hurdles to moving forward with new ideas and innovation is the fear of change. As humans, we have a natural tendency to fear the unknown. Knowing what the future holds is a gift most of us don’t have so, being fearful of change can be crippling. Plain and simple fear of change leaves us unprepared.

In 2006, I was charged with the task of helping my staff move into multimedia production. While I was naturally nervous about what this new change would mean for my staff, I embraced the change because I knew I would need to be an example for my staff to get the buy-in I would need from key players in my department. I not only needed the agreement of my happy learner types, I specifically needed the buy-in of the unspoken leader of my staff.  The unspoken leader, while a whole other post topic, is the person whose constancy at the time was comforting to the staff. As there had been many leaders before me, the photo department had chosen their own d-facto leader whom they trusted to always be there.

This particular veteran photographer was a man of very few words but distinct actions. He was a professional he did stellar work consistently and I could tell that having his respect was extremely important to his colleagues. He had literally been shooting photos at the newspaper, for longer than I had been on Earth. This is how I knew he was great at embracing change.  He had been through the era of the newspapers transition from black and white printing to color, the darkroom transition from film processing and printing to digital scanners. He used the first digital SLRs in the newsroom and survived the introduction of PhotoShop, Quark and the pagination era. So, I started with him.

Our first multimedia endeavor was to produce audio slide shows with Marantz recorders. Many thought I was crazy to ask the oldest person on my staff to begin producing audio slideshows first, all the assumptions were that the veterans never wanted change, but the truth is, they understand change better than anyone on the team. They have lived through it and are still there!

Fast forward  3 years to 2009; the unspoken leader on my team retired. I threw his going away party at my home and took the time to share how much his constancy meant to me. He gave me a small hand written card that is still one of my prize possessions.

Make Way for Ducklings SculptureIt said “Thank you, I can go now because there is someone here who will help them navigate the changing waters,  you are a great Mother Duck”

This was in reference to a conversation we had once about my favorite children’s book inspired by my hometown of Boston, “Make Way for Ducklings!”  While looking for a safe place to raise their ducklings This mother duck enlisted the help of others to lead her flock to a new home. Who knew a children’s book would be such a great lesson about change and navigating the world we live in. Change is just a new home, and if you enlist the help of those who know it well to help you, you will most often get there safely.

 

 

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