Adapting to Change is a Necessary Startup Skill
Adapting to change is a human struggle, but a requirement at a startup.
Editors Note: This post is from LeadFuze team member Brian McDaniel who is our Customer Success Specialist. He sheds light on what he’s learned his first few months on the job, how he’s adapting to change, and what it takes to be successful in his role and at our startup.
As you expand your workforce as a startup, change will be the only constant. I have seen that firsthand in my time at LeadFuze. How you handle adapting to change makes all the difference in the world.
As an employee, you will be subject to multitudes of changes that will make total sense to you, and some changes that make no sense at all.
You will be given a hat to wear, or you may be handed many and must learn how to juggle those responsibilities.
As an employer, you are now putting other’s lives into your hands other than your own or your partners. That means having to jump through hoops you would not have otherwise, and make sure that your employees have the support and confidence they need to do their jobs well.
To weather change effectively, it takes both parties working in tandem to bring up what’s working well, what’s not, and then moving forward in an informed manner.
One of the things that became apparent very quickly at LeadFuze was that nothing was set in stone as it related to process. Our business is that of results, meaning the path to get to those results will not always be the same.
In the first few weeks the process that we employed was that of understanding the procedures that had been in place before Will or I joined and using them as our baseline.
As the weeks went on and we grew in knowledge, then we began to see the changes that we hoped would move us forward.
We defined our goals for our work, and then built our processes to suit the goal in such a way that we were being as efficient as possible. Even in that time, we uncovered more and more of the reasoning behind our actions and sought to improve with newfound information.
With so much going on and shifting, it was tough to keep up. I learned (in class and on the job), in order to handle adapting to change you need to make sure you have a system in place to keep track of everything.
Find the tools that work for you, and stick to them.
By keeping track of all that I could with my notebook and calendar, I was able to guard myself from second guessing my actions, and it also helped me stay in the know about the changes going on at LeadFuze.
I’m still learning the best way to keep track of it all, but iteration through action is the only way I have found to improve on many fronts.
Thirst for Knowledge
Another thing that became apparent as time went on was that to truly gain knowledge, I had to be open to learning. Not the rote “I showed up so obviously I’m learning” mindset, but that of “I cannot get enough information to make me the best I can be at work”.
I rely on myself and my own gathered knowledge way too much for my own good. The struggle for me in that respect is that I wish to be taken seriously, but I might not always have the wisdom to back myself up.
Damian curtailed my wont to overextend myself at the cost of the correct information pretty quickly, giving me the out of “I don’t know” as opposed to some shoddy workmanship of a statement that may hurt the conversations I was having more than being honest with my understanding.
What “I don’t know” allows for is twofold. On one hand, it humbles the one speaking it, making it easier for them to listen to what is being asked of them, rather than trying to make something up on the fly. On the other hand, it allows the instructor to fill in those knowledge gaps so you can answer questions with greater confidence.
It can be easy to use lack of knowledge as a crutch, leaning upon it when you face something difficult, rather than accepting you don’t know and seeking to change that. Because how can you improve if you don’t seek it out?
The answer is, you can’t.
Fake Until You Make It?
Something else that showed up over my time at LeadFuze these past few months is that faking it till you make it can work, but you have to have action behind it.
I have a background in customer service, not sales. Even though I understood that they were different sides of the same coin in the grand scheme of customer success, I was still not as confident in being able to be the person to close or upsell someone.
I started by shadowing Damian (co-founder and sales manager here at LeadFuze) to understand some of the roles I was going to be taking over and make sure I had what I needed to succeed. I only had a few calls to coalesce my findings into something workable for myself.
I then took those notes and transferred them into my todo app so I could have my “must-haves” in sight as I went into each call. Before I knew it, I was starting to run kickoff calls and save calls.
I was so scared.
“What if my advice sucks?”
“Will these people take me seriously?”
“I’m not ready for this responsibility”
These thoughts and others like them ran through my head with the first few calls. I was so focused on how much I could possibly fail that I wasn’t allowing myself to just learn and become the person people could take seriously. Call after call, the blinders came off and I began to see the truth of the situation.
I was handling these calls like I had been doing them for months rather than weeks, and as I took to heart the things that worked well and didn’t on each call, I was able to iterate and grow into the place I’m at now (iterating on what works applies to every position).
The only way to grow in this role is to act. If there is no action, there is no movement, one way or the other.
I’m not much further than I originally was, but my fear of being an imposter is gone, replaced with a hunger to live up to the potential that my superiors see in me. If they thought that I couldn’t handle adapting to change and wasn’t willing to learn, they wouldn’t have made the choice to put me in this position.
In life, but doubly so for startups, change is the only constant. Adapting to change and a willingness to improve are the things I love so much about working here.
To those who are starting their journey with a new company, be humble and willing to act upon what you learn. You will get nowhere if you simply nod your head and never improve.
To those who are starting their journey bringing on new teammates, make sure you have a solid understanding of your core principles before you bring on someone else. If you cannot define what you stand for or are about, it will trickle down to any other decisions you make.
I have the great fortune of working for and with a pair of leaders that understands their values and goals, and makes it apparent in not just their hiring process, but in the way they approach their company.
How are you adapting to change? In what areas can you improve your work environment to be more susceptible to learning?