No matter what role you’re in or where you are in your career, you’ve likely experienced the impact of change. With change can come feelings of uncertainty, which can trigger all sorts of emotional reactions: excitement, anticipation for the future, worry or angst, perhaps feeling overwhelmed, or maybe even all the above. The good news is you’re not alone - we’ve all experienced uncertainty.
What if you could influence how you navigate change by shifting your mindset? Three brave and talented women at Ecolab share their own personal learnings and journeys around navigating change and uncertainty throughout their careers. We hope you will see yourself in some of their stories and that their experience can influence how you think about mindset.
Q: What have you learned about yourself through changes in your career, and what insights and advice do you have for people navigating uncharted territory?
A: Iza Coelho, HR Director, Global Industrial: I have two principals on how I approach change: The first one is that I really look at change as an opportunity. The second one is that I look at change as a chance to ask, “How can I help?” Looking at change as an opportunity will lead to development. Will you learn something new that you didn’t know before, like a new technology, skill, or perspective? Perhaps you will meet people that you didn’t know before that you can learn from and build connections with that will last for many years to come. Something good is going to come out of that change and internal journey. You will feel vulnerable because you’re not going to have all the answers to all the questions, but it’s OK! You will learn and feel more comfortable as you go. The second piece is that I always want to be a part of the journey – I don’t want to stay behind – so for me it’s all about asking how can I help. How can my experience and my expertise help the organization, my team and the people around me go through a transformation?
Q: Tell us about the challenges that you’ve faced throughout your career. How have those challenges and experiences shaped the way you face uncertainty today?
A: Sade Lawrence, HR Manager, Global Talent: Earlier in my career I had an opportunity to move into a role which was highly visible and highly coveted, and I approached it with a very narrow definition of what success looked like. I felt like I had to be perfect all the time, have all the answers, and always feel like I had it together. That created an incredibly stifling environment and even more stress on what was already stressful and new for me. In processing that experience, I walked away feeling like I left so much on the table both in terms of what I could have learned and the relationships I could have built.
Around that time a manager gifted me the book Mindset by Carol Dweck on fixed and growth mindsets. Thinking about my behaviors, I saw a lot of that fell under that fixed mindset category and realized that was in direct opposition to the career and life I wanted to have. How could I approach new things, go new places, and continue to advance if I was always so concerned with certainty and having all the answers? That really sparked a shift in me in how I wanted to show up. I’m by no means perfect, but there are a couple of things I try to remember, and one of them is that we really must have realistic definitions of what success means. So often we think it’s a ‘100’ or checking all the boxes, but more importantly, did you learn something that you can apply in the future, or have you created impact or meaning for someone? Secondly, there are certainly skills that I don’t have and things that I don’t know...yet. But I am a good learner so I have to trust myself that I will learn and that it will come. The third is to invite other people in and ask questions! By inviting others in, there’s an opportunity to process and exchange, course-correct if necessary, determine a best response, refocus and realign, and find a better way forward. By doing that, I realized that there is no weakness in acknowledging there are things we don’t know and that we don’t have all of the answers, but if we involve others, we can reach higher and more stable ground together.
Q: What are some of the ways that you’ve overcome that sense of feeling ‘overwhelmed’ that accompanies change and uncertainty?
A: Izzy Schulte, HR Director: When I joined Ecolab, I was looking for a fresh start. I had just finished a very challenging consulting project in a new city, working with a new team and in a new industry – and I was totally burned out. So I jumped at the opportunity for a change. In my first few months working at Ecolab, I took a self-assessment as part of a Learning Agility certification and found that I was low on the change agility spectrum. I was defensive at first – of course. But after thinking about it, I realized I had let an overwhelming experience affect the person who was showing up to work every day and impact the way I was viewing new opportunities. Fast forward 5 years, and I’ve been on a new project the last 10 months, in a new city, with a new team and a new topic. It’s been a little messy and a little uncertain at times –but the key comes down to mindset. Instead of letting this experience isolate and intimidate me, I try to make sure it inspires me and energizes me.
There are a couple of behaviors and actions that I’ve picked up that help build my confidence and comfort with change. The first is communication: Identify, diagnose and share your fear with your team or your manager. By being vulnerable, you’ll be able to build trust, manage your fear, move past it and tackle that challenges together. The second recommendation I have is to become a student. When I start a new project, I recognize that I’m not an expert yet – that’s a humbling and a motivating mindset. Study the topic, discuss your learnings openly with others, and turn your campus into a classroom. Lastly, understand what motivates you and why. Approach each new challenge with the question: “How will this add value to me and bring me closer to my goals?”
What’s your intuitive reaction to uncertainty and change? Uncertainty can be powerful, but so can mindset. The stories of others’ uncertainties can inspire the ways we navigate challenges and new circumstances. They help us find more ease or positivity in reacting to change and define success in a way that’s realistic while also allowing us to recognize that other people are in the same vulnerable places of learning. It’s important to realize that we're not alone. When faced with uncertainty, we have a choice on how to react. Be intentional about the choice you make, as your choice may influence what happens next.
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