The Green Sheet Online Edition
February 09, 2009 • Issue 09:02:01
I am tired of hearing about how bad things are. Certainly, this past year has been a stressful one for the merchant services industry, our economy, and our political systems. I do agree that many of the things we took for granted - a steady economy, rising stock market, healthy real estate prices and a booming job market - have changed direction, at least for a while.
But why aren't there more stories about the incredible opportunities those recent changes have uncovered?
If you want to compare our current situation to other times and places (Iraq and most of Africa today, for example, or the time of the Great Depression) things are actually pretty good.
Based on unemployment numbers, over 92 percent of us have jobs, and most people have food, careers, education and many opportunities. For those who haven't been fortunate enough to keep their jobs or homes, there are safety nets and far more programs to assist them than ever before.
There is a time for all things, and layoffs, downsizing and recalibrating are cyclical and, in most cases, necessary events. Change can be messy, painful and tiring, but it almost always leads to something better. Change challenges people to rise above a fear-based mentality to one of courage, openness and acceptance.
I believe the changes that will follow this recessionary time will bring renewal to our professional and personal lives. Employees will value all of the good companies that give them so many benefits; the days of just doing enough to not get fired may be gone for a while.
I cannot do much about the way your company deals with change. But I can offer you some tips about how to cope with it. Psychologists who have studied and documented the change process describe four distinct phases one has to pass through to complete a change cycle.
Many of us saw the recession coming, and we denied it. We saw merchant sales decrease and heard rumors in our own organizations about how sales were down. The normal initial reaction is to discount this type of news, especially when it contrasts with how things have been.
In our professional lives, we have been given a surplus of new ideas, tools and approaches. Again, most people have the tendency to discount their significance.
For example, in my career as a recruiter, I have heard applicant tracking systems, Internet recruiting, and social networking all dismissed as fads. I had to threaten to leave a leadership position in a recruiting firm in the late 1990s because the business kept refusing to pay for Monster.com and other Internet resources that are now widely recognized as essential recruiting tools.
In our current situation, there is no more denying that changes have come. Make an effort to accept this, become informed and find out what tools are available to you. Try the following:
- Do intense research, get the facts, and make decisions based on verified data you collect about things you observe in your sphere, regardless of whether they have practical applications.
- Don't fail to act, hoping things will get better by themselves. Your actions will make things better or worse, and you'll learn in the process either way.
Even when we acquire useful information, we still often decline to use the tools we have discovered, or we complain about their shortfalls. We revert to disputing the reality of what is happening and then dig in our heels, trying to hang on to the past.
It's hard to accept change and overcome discomfort that arises with new tools, processes or, in some cases, the need to find new employment.
As part of an organization working with many merchant service providers, I've heard great stories of ISOs and merchant level salespeople using new techniques and ideas to thrive in this market. I've also seen other firms resist the same successful ideas in hopes that things will return to the way they were.
The following should help you overcome resistance:
- Take a small step; use one new tool or process. Keep at it for a while, and measure the results.
- Ample resources exist in this industry, and many people are willing to help, so network and see how your peers are using new tools or processes. For example, if you are adjusting to a smaller staff or coping with the loss of a major client, others may have already found innovative ways to deal with similar situations.
Only a small percentage of us can simply jump into new situations or embrace new solutions without any concern or hesitation. Most of us tend to be overly cautious and averse to change. You will know that you have entered the exploration stage when you begin to make small, deliberate changes. For example, you may start experimenting with minor process improvement, or you might adopt a new technology you have been uncertain about.
Exploration is the step at which you try out and then discard many approaches, keeping only the ones that bear fruit. And that's exactly what you should be doing. In fact, it's the best way to make good use of change and shape it to your advantage. Not everything is going to be a great fit for your situation.
Here are some ways to enhance the exploration process:
- Think of constructive ways to incorporate new ideas and tools into your routine on a regular basis. Changes will seem less dramatic, and you will have enough time to learn how to master your new tools.
- Establish objective assessment criteria to evaluate whether a new approach is working.
- Reward those on your team who try new approaches, tools or ideas. Encourage them to share what they learn with everyone. This can help build energy, team chemistry and confidence.
Soon you will come to see new approaches as standard, and you will struggle to remember the old days and old ways. Change and innovation will become a normal part of your business model, and this will greatly expand the potential for ongoing success.
Here are some ways to reinforce commitment:
- Now is not the time to stop. Make experimenting with new ideas your standard - even when you have just adopted something.
- Continuously scan the marketplace for changes, trends, new products and solutions.
- Use the creative powers you have unleashed with your team.
- Recognize complacency as your biggest enemy.
The recession will pass, and the economy will ramp up soon enough. Use this time to learn, adapt, examine your own practices and make the changes you think will make a difference. There is really no point to talking further about how bad things are. Go collect on the opportunities that these changing times bring.
Curt Hensley is the founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of CSH Consulting, a recruiting firm exclusively focused on the payments industry. He and his leadership team have over 50 years of combined experience recruiting in the merchant acquiring arena. They have placed over 1,200 payments industry professionals since their inception eight years ago. Contact Curt at 480-315-8800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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