My dad used to say that the only people that liked change were babies with wet diapers. I always laughed at that, but now upon reflection, I have a different response. In this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, change is inevitable. It’s often forced upon you, but far too often we ignore the signs of when it’s time for us to make a change. As a leader, it is critically important to realize when conditions are right for you to change your approach, your outlook or even your surroundings. Here are five signs that it is time for you to change.
1. You’ve lost your passion. I always know it is time for a new approach, role, or even company, because if I am not excited to start each day and bring my best self to work; it is then I realize my passion has begun to wane. Passion is unique to everyone; for me I start to lose creativity for my work and thus don’t have a desire to tackle it anew each day. For you, the loss of passion may be signaled by something else entirely. However you measure your own passion (e.g. innovation, development, products, etc.), stay in tune with yourself so that you can immediately course correct should you catch yourself starting to lose that passion. It is guaranteed your team will notice the moment you lose it, so stay self-aware.
In this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, change is inevitable.
2.“New” no longer excites you. You’ll know it’s time to change your approach or mindset when new projects, teams, and basically anything new no longer excites you as it once did. Whether it’s your fourth CEO in as many years or the latest plan to reinvigorate your product competitiveness in the marketplace, you might find yourself beginning to lose energy in “rallying the troops” to get your team behind the latest change. When you find yourself spending lengthier-than-usual amounts of time trying to find words and actions for yourself so that you can convince others to champion the change, then it is time to muster up or move on. To opt back in, consider setting up recurring time with someone who is seemingly excited about the changes happening. Their excitement might be contagious and could rub off on you. Alternatively, give yourself time to move through the various stages of change, recognizing that your timeline for moving through those stages may be different than others. If you realize that no matter what you try, you’re not going to be able to find excitement, or at least acceptance and the ability to purposefully lead others through change, then it’s likely time to move on.
3. You catch yourself beginning to make negative comments. It might be in casual conversation with one or more of your trusted colleagues or direct reports, but if you begin observing a change in tone for yourself, pay attention. When negativity creeps in, it usually does so in subtle ways at first. Maybe it’s gentle teasing and joking about the latest change in which you find yourself taking part. Or worse, perhaps you begin to talk about others in a negative light. Whatever the case, realize the impact your negativity will likely have on others and commit to change. The Impact of Negativity Dr. Annette Roter indicates that “When a negative or destructive leader is around, followers will either look to move away from that leader or they will jump on the negative leader’s bandwagon. When this happens, a division occurs within the team. In some cases, the leader intentionally seeks to create turmoil in the team.” She goes on to explain that “High drama, gossip, team sabotage, high emotions and anxiety will occur on the team of a negative leader. The focus then turns away from the negative leader and shifts to the dysfunction of the team. With the attention drawn away from the leader, the leader continues with the negative behaviors.” Dr. Annette Roter The Impact of Negative Leaders on Team Workcomplish.
4.Daydreams replace team dreams. When you find yourself drifting off in your mind, thinking about all the things you could do and the type of company or team you’d like to be a part of, then it’s time to pause and challenge yourself. Review your list of personal non-negotiables. Are your current conditions meeting them? Are you the problem (or your mindset and approach) or is it really no longer a good fit for you? Recently, I was listening to a podcast and heard a CEO remark that if she had 10 days in a row of truly not enjoying her job, and she couldn’t find a thread of “awesomeness,” then she knew it was time for a change. Alternatively, sometimes a break is all that is needed for a fresh perspective. Consider taking a long vacation or if that is not possible, take some Fridays or Mondays off so that you can unplug and re-focus. If you come back to work and you still feel unfocused on your role, work and team, then it’s likely time to begin making plans for your next chapter.
5.Succession planning feels crucial vs. “nice to have.” Every good leader knows the important role that succession planning plays in their business. Succession planning is the process a company undertakes to make sure that employees are recruited and developed to fill each key position within the company. In her article “What Every Manager Needs to Know About Succession Planning,” Susan Heathfield outlines the advantages of succession planning for both employees and employers. She also notes that “Effective, proactive succession planning leaves your organization well prepared for all contingencies. Successful succession planning builds bench strength.” A clear sign for you as a leader that it might be time to move into a different role or company is that you begin to realize that you need to double down on your succession planning efforts, or you begin to realize the need to implement them. If you find yourself thinking along these lines, then you know it’s time.
Whether you find your passion waning, the excitement of “new” wearing thin, or yourself slipping into the habit of making negative comments, there are ways in which you can course correct or prompt yourself to adopt a new perspective. If you have tried these remedies and still feel the same, consider whether it is time to move into the next chapter of your career. You - and your team – deserve nothing less than someone who is fully committed and passionate about the work they do and the environment in which they do it. And remember…