How to Adapt to a Changing World

Change is inevitable – at home, at work and in the world. Here, Georgette Piligian, SVP, Americas Operations, discusses changes that have influenced our lives, her approach to change, and MetLife’s ability to adapt to a changing world.

In a speech on June 25, 1963, President, John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past, or present, are certain to miss the future.”

So much has changed since then. Look at technology alone — in the past 20 years we’ve seen the birth of the internet, cloud technology, social media, citizen journalism, digital music, the shareconomy, laptops, tablets, drones and self-driving cars.

Today, we use supercomputers as mobile phones and streaming platforms to participate virtually in live events. We bank online, draw money from an ATM, use microwave ovens and read digital books. With each change, we’ve adjusted and learned to adapt and become more resilient. For the most part, we’ve taken advantage of these changes to make our lives, work and the world better.

I can say that I’ve learned a lot about myself; how change impacts me and how I react to change. When I was young and something seemed to be a difficult change, such as an argument with a sibling, the loss of a volleyball game, or a breakup with a boyfriend (after my sister accidentally cut off all of my hair!), my dad would say, “Put it in perspective.” and have me read page three or four of the newspaper, which was inevitably a tragic story.

Change at work is much the same as in our personal lives. There are changes in businesses, markets, management, competitors, processes and projects. My reaction to change is the same whether it’s at home or work. I take a step back to gain perspective and understand what it is that I, or my team, need to overcome. I don’t put up a wall, I greet the change and adapt.

Putting things in perspective, resetting and reframing the “why” is imperative. This will help answer the questions “How does this impact me?” and “How do I adapt for success and best contribute?”

I’m grateful to work for MetLife, which through the years has adapted to changing times with bold moves that have made it stronger and contributed to the nation during challenging times.

When there were concerns around the stability of the stock market in the late 1920’s, MetLife made it a policy not to invest. This decision enabled the company to survive the crash of 1929 with the financial strength to pay out cash surrenders to its policyholders, even honoring requests where premiums had lapsed. For many, these payments made the difference between financial failure and survival.

MetLife provided capital that helped build NYC’s iconic Rockefeller Center, and also made loans to construct the Empire State Building which virtually saved the project from bankruptcy. Its housing program which ran from the 1920’s until after World War II was in part a response to the need for investment vehicles that would bring greater returns to policyholders. And, During World War II, MetLife placed more than 51 percent of its total assets in war bonds, and was the largest single private contributor to the Allied cause.

As a company, we adapt to the next set of changes, it’s critical for us to press forward and embrace our future and support each other. My advice is to think about change, take pause to understand how you react, get perspective, and understand the “why” so you can learn, adapt, and grow.

And of course, while we change we can’t lose focus on delivering the promises we have made to those that count on us every day — our customers.