Your business has been performing in a pretty lackluster way for too long. You’ve been getting increasingly frustrated until — ZAP — you’ve had enough. You’ve been bored and not fully engaged in your business. Because you can’t figure out what you want to do, your business doesn’t know what to do, and it’s showing — ZAP — you’ve had enough. These are just two common scenarios where unacceptable situations generate enough energy to ZAP you with the spark that initiates the need to change.
Change shakes things up. Change is like a blast of fresh cold air that grabs everyone’s attention. Change is new, exciting, and scary because the outcome is uncertain. It doesn’t matter how detailed the plan is, stuff happens on the road of change that cannot be predicted. It is for this very reason that change begins with a spark. In order to get you to move into the unknown, to push you out of your comfort zone, you need a spark — a ZAP. The question is, how much of a ZAP does it take to get you to initiate change?
Here are some no-compromise thoughts on initiating change:
• Intolerable toleration: Here’s a full dose of no-compromise leadership thinking: you’re getting zapped to change all the time. The problem is that you have built up a tolerance to zaps. You ignore them, procrastinate initiating any new ideas, and justify not changing to stay the course as if some business miracle will produce the outcomes your business needs. I often wonder how much pain (increasingly powerful zaps) a leader and company can endure before the ZAP is acknowledged that it’s time to change. Businesses fail because be their leaders wait too long to change.
• It’s the destination: All change begins with a vision a destination. You must be able to articulate what the destination looks like and feels like, and why the journey is worthy of the extreme effort it will take to achieve it. Work harder is not a destination. More sales is not a destination. Building a great company that delivers something special is a destination. Building a culture of inclusion that coaches employees to achieve their full potential is a destination. People will fight for a vision they are passionate about. Where are you taking your company? When was the last time you articulated your vision to your team?
• Fearless leader: Change begins with the leader. It’s the leader who needs to say, “We are going change.” Change that begins below the leader is called mutiny or revolution — and is usually caused by a leader that refuses to change or initiate change. It is also the leader who must change his or her counterproductive thinking and behavior before expecting those they lead to change theirs. I like to use the term “fearless leader” because it communicates how vital it is for leaders to not only initiate the change process, but to also lead their companies through the change process as it’s occurring. It’s fine to delegate change initiatives, but the ultimate accountability to drive these initiatives across the finish line will always rest on the shoulders of the leader.
• Change changes: Sparks will continue to ZAP you through the change process. Because change is all about venturing into the unknown, your approaches, tactics, and systems will need to continuously adapt. That’s part of what makes change so exciting and scary. Pay attention to the sparks that ZAP you. Be especially vigilant to the forces and influencers that will attempt to distract you and pull you and your team off course — to make you quit.
• Win in stages: Baseball has innings. Football has 15-minute quarters. Winning a war means winning many battles. Seeing a change initiative cross the finish line means leading your company through incremental gains and wins. It also means accepting the occasional defeat and learning from it. When you believe that failure is not an option, so will your team. That’s how you lead a team through adversity until victory is achieved. Take time to celebrate because the spark of change is getting ready to ZAP you again.