Business and Operations
Prepare yourself for the challenge of change
By Glenn Gutek
By Glenn Gutek
February 7, 2012 – Leaders are change agents. It is impossible to lead
people into an unknown future without knowing how to successfully
introduce change. It has been said that the one constant in life is
change, but why must it be so often, so soon?
There are some personalities that avoid change the way an unprepared
student avoids making eye contact with the teacher. There are many that
value stability over creativity and for them change can be an
excruciating experience. However, there are some that get bored with
predictability and the idea of change is a thrill ride that keeps life
fresh and invigorating. No matter your personality preference, adapting
to new things, new ideas, new tools, new processes and new possibilities
is both necessary and difficult.
The problem with change does not rest in the wiring of our
personalities; it rests in our desire for comfort. Even those that
embrace the notion of being a change agent will often times find
themselves leading in the direction of their own comfort. Leaders often
express frustration and shock that the people they lead resist anything
different. The real shock is that leaders are often not innovators, but
comfort seekers. The unarticulated question rumbling around the brain of
many so-called change agents is, “how do I lead this group to a place
where I am most comfortable with the role I will play for a very long
Retailer K-Mart was comfortably resting on top of the discount retail
market when the super systems of Wal-Mart made cheap prices even
cheaper. Ma Bell and the baby bells were comfortably asleep when the
world moved from land lines to cellular technology. That same alarm
awoke Bill Gates when the world moved from software to the Internet. The
former did not hear the alarm and have drifted into irrelevance. The
later examples heard the alarm and made significant changes.
We all understand the need to change. What we may not understand is that
many entrepreneurial leaders are reluctant to embrace change.
Entrepreneurial leaders risked plenty to launch their enterprise. Many
thought their leadership, creativity, and vision would promote change
for years to come. Entrepreneurial leaders may have been lulled to sleep
thinking they were masters of change when they were just creating their
own place of comfort.
What is pushing you toward change? Where are you finding internal
resistance? What worries you the most, and keeps you up at night? These
are your wake up calls, and you shouldn’t hit the snooze button. Your
slumber will get continuously more uncomfortable.
There is a wealth of research and wisdom on the techniques of navigating
change. What is not easily found is advice on how to self- prepare for
the challenge of change. Below is a simple and memorable way to think
about the work you may want to employ to embrace the change that is to
- Get some distance: How are you at math? If you are like
many, the memory of doing math homework is filled with frustration. No
matter how many times the teacher went over the formula or covered the
material it was very difficult to solve the problem and the harder you
tried the further away the solution seemed. Did you ever have the
experience of giving up, walking away and in a moment of rest you began
to see things with greater clarity? Sometimes getting away from the
problem is all you need to see things differently. If you know change is
necessary and you are fighting it, try getting away. A vacation, a
mission trip, or sabbatical are all things that can provide some
distance and perspective.
- Go the distance: Countless business leaders have already
started marking the time till they sell or retire. Change requires
perspective, and beginning to limit your vision will only provide a
limited perspective. You will not navigate change until you can see
beyond your own tenure in leadership. Be willing to envision a future
that is beyond your leadership expectancy.
- Stop your persistence: Everybody knows the classic
definition of insanity. The first time you initiated change it required
that you keep the course and demonstrate greater persistence than the
forces of resistance. That tendency toward persistence may be the very
thing keeping you from seeing and embracing change. Try quitting
something. Your “stop doing” list is far more important than your
“start doing” list.
- Try being inconsistent: The sign of brilliance is the
ability to hold two conflicting truths in tension. We need to keep taxes
low and increase revenue to eliminate debt. We are taught that it is a
sign of weakness, a lack of conviction to play both sides against each
other. While there is some truth to that, in our modern world of
constant change we need to lean toward the left one day, and the right
the next. You will not be able to embrace change until you can honestly
contemplate that your historically held position may not be the whole
truth. Try advocating for something that you had previously opposed.
it possible that you are the one reluctant to change? Let your passion
for success and desire to lead others into an unknown future outweigh
your desire for comfort.
Glenn Gutek is a speaker and CEO of Awake Consulting & Coaching,
a firm that helps small businesses and organizations improve their
leadership and business development through training, development and
coaching. He is also the author of Wide-Awake Leadership, which
teaches leaders how to overcome mediocrity though effective leadership.
For more information on speaking and consulting, please visit www.AwakeConsulting.com or contact Glenn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-901-4357.