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Embracing Change Head-On: Workplace Lessons from the News

What Do Jason Kelce, Phillies Uniforms, Capital One, and AI All Have in Common?

Current events in the news provide clues and lessons learned for embracing transformational change. Every organization deals with significant change today, whether you’re a marcom leader in-house, in an agency setting, or solo/remote.

Change is inevitable. You may be adapting your business or marketing strategy as customer needs evolve, working to optimize staff with new roles and responsibilities, or trying to adopt AI tools and emerging digital technology. The workplace is an ever-changing environment.

At the heart of every change are the people whose lives are impacted. Insights gained from recent news topics will help empathetic marketing leaders better understand how to navigate key aspects of changes at work. You’ll learn to stop unknowingly undermining efforts and be more supportive and understanding while easing transitions and increasing morale.

Embracing Change Head-On

In Eagles all-pro center Jason Kelce’s tearful retirement speech that was broadcast live on local TV, radio, and online that collected three million views on YouTube, Kelce sums it up.

“I don’t know what’s next, but I’m looking forward to new challenges and opportunities that await, and I carry with me the lessons learned here and forever sharing the bond of being a Philadelphian.”

-Jason Kelce

His farewell featured heartfelt stories about people who impacted his career shed light on why he loved the game and how it made him feel “most alive.” He is one of the most visible and recognizable faces in our region. Kelce was an Eagles team leader, active with charity events, featured in an Amazon Prime documentary, and also a popular podcaster.

Change is Hard and Personal

In his passionate speech, Kelce showed how change is hard and emotional. It takes time for anyone impacted to make a transition, like a retirement after 13 seasons, the life-altering Super Bowl championship, national notoriety, and a unique connection with Philadelphia fandom. The longer we’re tied to a certain way of working, the harder it is to change.

Read: Supercharge Your Digital Marketing ROI in 2024 and Beyond

Jason’s wife, Kylie, told NBC10 that his memorable retirement speech evolved over the past four years as he contemplated retirement. Over that time, his post-NFL life expanded with possibilities that influenced his readiness to change.

Redesigned Phillies Uniforms Upstage Game

In a sport rich in tradition, Major League Baseball’s redesigned uniforms triggered more chatter in spring training than excitement for the baseball games. Players were vocal and generated headlines all over. 

Some accepted the new lighter, breathable “performance-driven” material. However, many players complained about the lower quality, see-through pants, and jerseys with names and numbers too small. Now, the players’ union wants adjustments, while the changes put MLB, Nike, and Fanatics on the defensive.

The baseball partners said they collaborated with players on the uniform redesign for six years (partly stretched out by COVID). This included more than 300 players who underwent body scans to assist with better fittings, and some clubs tested out different jerseys late last season. Players still say they were surprised and disappointed by the look and feel of the new uniforms. 

Michael Rubin, CEO of Fanatics, which supplies the uniforms to MLB teams, acknowledged the controversy. He said players need more time to get used to the changes and should have been consulted more before the uniform changes. 

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is if we’re involved in something, we need to make sure that everybody is on board,” Rubin explained, speaking at MIT.

Involve Those Impacted by Change

Like Kelce’s retirement, the uproar over the new baseball uniforms provides lessons for managing change. MLB called the shift a “significant transition” and is working with Nike on changes with the season underway.

Phillies pitcher Matt Strahm conceded the players don’t have much choice. “It is what it is. Anytime you change something,” he pointed out, “there’s a learning curve and adjustment period.” 

Phillies all-star shortstop Trea Turner was more outspoken. “I know everyone hates them. We all liked what we had.” Some fans are nostalgic about the old uniforms and feel the new ones seem cheaper.

$35B Capital One Acquisition Means Massive Change

Wilmington, DE-based Capital One announced in February it was buying Discover Financial Services based in Illinois. This $35 billion deal will create the largest issuer of credit cards worldwide. The combination comes when many more consumers are using cards over cash. Capital One employs 51,000 and Discover has 17,600 employees.

Mergers and acquisitions trigger significant change for stakeholders with disparate interests, from top management to employees and consumers to shareholders, regulators, and competitors. The deal is expected to take a year or longer to finalize, if approved.

Calm Fear of the Unknown

While Capital One executives explained their strategic rationale, integrating two large companies inevitably results in organizational changes and culture clashes. Leadership must be visible, communicate regularly, and be candid to address the diverse stakeholder interests during this tenuous interim period. Acknowledge the uncertainty about what’s known and what’s not.

AIs Rapid Acceleration

A recent Pew Foundation study found Americans are rapidly accepting Artificial Intelligence, with half saying they use AI tools regularly. In a Harris poll, nearly 75% of employees who have used generative AI in the workplace said it has improved their communication and productivity. 

However, some are skeptical about potential impact of AI on their jobs, cautious about privacy concerns, or unsure how to use Artificial Intelligence without experience. One survey respondent said, “It’s one more thing I don’t have the time to learn.” 

Change Requires Training and Support

As businesses increasingly embrace the power of AI and its potential, most of us have a great deal to learn and will need to experiment.

Whether you want to realize the benefits of AI or broader digital transformation, business and change leaders must articulate their strategy and guide their organizations with support for people to achieve the desired results.    

Change is an inherent aspect of our personal and professional lives. Today, individuals with a growth mindset who embrace change will be better equipped to prosper. 

Businesses that foster innovation and adapt quickly can flourish, but only if leaders communicate their plans and engage their people every step of the journey. Managing change is the cornerstone of a successful strategy.

Change Is a Matter of Head and Heart 

When managing change, leaders must create a vision for the future, define what success looks like, build alignment, and inspire excitement around the future. Leadership is the primary reason for change success or failure. 

  • Impacted individuals must understand the rationale (why and why now). Learn how any change will benefit them before they will support it. Jason Kelce needed to get comfortable and optimistic about his non-NFL playing days before he could step toward the future.
  • A change curve reflects how individuals may react and adjust over time. Emotions range from shock and denial to bargaining and acceptance, similar to how individuals handle grief. Leaders should recognize that people respond to change differently.
  • Leaders at all levels need to understand the degree of impact on others. Change leaders should consider the organization’s readiness for change, invite participation, and recruit early adopters to be change champions. Engage those impacted by change, listening and addressing questions and concerns. 
  • Anticipate resistance to any significant transition. Plan how to overcome it. Some MLB players didn’t accept the need for change, like the change, or agree their new uniforms were better. Change that involves those impacted is much more likely to succeed. 
  • Change can be daunting and complex with M&As. Consider Capital One and Discover joining forces. Leaders will need to be open, transparent, and persistent in communication. 
  • Digital transformations involve more than new technology and data. People, new processes, and new ways of working are at its core. Unite the organization with training and support.

Michael Wood is a veteran corporate communications professional with expertise in strategy, media relations, employee engagement, crisis and change management. He has led award-winning teams and elevated communications effectiveness in several regional and global companies. Connect on LinkedIn @michaelwoodpa.