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A NO-COMPROMISE LESSON: When it is time to shake things up
August 11, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment
The body language of the employees I was about to address oozed negativity and resistance. You could cut the tension in the meeting room with a knife. As the business owner prepared to introduce me, my mind was in rapid creativity mode, crafting my opening for this launch of a major change initiative that included a new compensation system.
It was show time. “Good morning,” I began. “As your consultant, I have examined every conceivable aspect of your company, and I’m happy to announce that absolutely nothing needs to change.”
As I stood silently, allowing my words to sink in, almost in unison the employees responded with, “You’ve got to be kidding. Everything here needs to change!” With the ice broken and everyone in agreement that significant changes were needed, I was able to proceed.
There are two lessons to learn from this story. First, the owner waited too long to implement the tough changes the business truly needed. This “fear of change” caused deterioration in the business culture, which trashed morale and productivity. Second, employees are more ready and open for change than most leaders think. It doesn’t mean that all change will be welcomed with open arms. It means that, in general, employees know when change needs to happen.
I love change and the sense of urgency it ignites in a company. Change not only stirs the pot, it often gets people focused on a specific project, behavior, objective or goal. When necessary, change can snap a business out of its complacent stupor.
The question is: What do you need to change in your company? I’m not talking about little tweaks; I’m talking about that vision-driven, courageous, fearless, heart-pounding kind of change that transforms a company and offers unlimited possibilities.
I’ll bet you already know the answer. So what’s standing in your way?
Let’s get the fear-of-change thing out of the way. Get over it! Leading a company is not about you – it’s about ensuring the health, profitability and growth of the business. You are responsible and accountable for doing what needs to be done. When you allow your fears and leadership blockages to get in the way, you are compromising the company and its employees, suppliers, investors and customers. It’s the leader’s job to make tough decisions – even if they’re unpopular – if those decisions are right for the company as a whole. Get over it, or get out of the way.
It’s easy to get caught up in the daily mayhem of business and not be aware that your vision is getting stale. Companies with strong, inspiring and vibrant visions have a distinct bounce in their step. It’s as if the entire company is focused on and moving toward one laser dot on the horizon.
If your vision has become rusty, it’s time to get out the polish and work on it until it shines brightly enough to guide everyone in the company. Shake things up. Get your company moving until its heart is pumping at an invigorating rate.
At different points, change is the perfect prescription for every business. Change is simply part of the evolutionary process of creating an enduring company.
Change means identifying obstacles and opportunities on multiple levels that impact the behaviors and culture of a business. Change can be described on a scale that ranges from critically urgent (survival change) all the way to steady, incremental growth change. No matter where your company is on the scale, change is a non-negotiable part of business. Failure to change is an invitation to failure itself.
Here are some no-compromise strategies when it’s time to shake things up and initiate positive change:
- Put everything on the table: Too many leaders fall into the trap of keeping individuals, groups, systems or elements of the business off limits to change. Be prepared to go all the way, or don’t change at all. Anything less is a compromise of the change process.
- Stay true to your values: Don’t allow the need for results to compromise your values; those values must guide all change initiatives.
- Go deep: If you’re going to begin a change initiative, don’t dance around the issues. Go deep enough to create positive change where it counts – in your business culture.
- Think big, think long-term: There are times and conditions which call for big-thinking change that will prepare your company for the future. Evaluating what needs to change means out-of-the-box thinking.
- Change takes collaboration: You can’t change a business all by yourself. The energy of change comes from collaborative innovation and the recruitment of change-friendly disciples.
- Change takes time: Most change initiatives fail because of unrealistic expectations and timelines. Remember, basic system changes can take up to 18 months to stick, and major culture shifts can take years. Be tenacious and courageous.
- Re-think strategic planning: Based on your growth rate, today’s strategic plan can quickly become obsolete. Do strategic planning as often as necessary to keep on top of change (quarterly, if that’s what it takes) and to stay realistic with your goals.
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