On most days, the drive to work is uneventful. When that is the case, you follow a familiar route and the drive is a forgettable, to-be-repeated-tomorrow affair. Yet, sometimes your route can be foggy and your trip requires a change in plan and routine.
In the same way, our day-to-day job is a lot like our daily drive. As we plan our week, we expect it to be familiar with a bit of repetition. Our routines are governed by an anticipated destination and follow a clear, well-traveled path.
So, what do we do when the world around us changes and the expected becomes unexpected? Perhaps reporting lines changed or our role was redefined. Maybe our business appears a bit unfamiliar because the company strategy has changed.
Just as when we drive through fog, we need to be ready to adapt to the changing environment. The road ahead is harder to see. When the fog rolls in, how should we respond?
- Slow Down and Assess the Situation – When you can’t see where you are going, it can be unnerving, but that doesn’t mean you turn around. Instead you slow down, readjust your approach, and observe and respond to the actions of others.
Perhaps a colleague has experienced a similar situation during their career or is a little further ahead. Reach out to learn more about the conditions you’re going to face and what you can expect; ask them for advice on actions you can take.
- Use the Tools at Your Disposal – Turn on your fog lights or follow the reflective stripes on the road that outline the path forward. Use the tools available to you – or invest in and develop new ones – to navigate the uncertainty.
Consider dusting off or trying out a rarely used skill in your personal toolkit. Invest in yourself by taking a relevant training program or participating in an industry or functional association. Or, now may be the opportunity to do something new that you can try, test, and pilot to help make progress.
- Remember Your Destination – When you started this trip, you were going somewhere. Your destination hasn’t changed, but chances are the route could change or your progress could be delayed. Perhaps the greatest comfort you have when working through an unfamiliar environment is that you are still moving toward the same ultimate goal.
When you find yourself surrounded by fog – continue to move forward. Regard this moment as an opportunity to discover new skills, to engage with and learn from your colleagues, and to grow beyond the day-to-day work. Our best professional development and personal growth happens and accelerates when we are challenged to navigate through the unfamiliar.