“I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then, I realized I was somebody.” —Lily Tomlin
Oh, that dreaded word “change.” I have seen companies go out of business rather than change. I have seen people suffer from all kinds of physical ailments rather than change. I have seen entire marketing plans get turned down because they involved doing something the company had never done before.
People, by natural instinct, hate change. They hate anything that takes them out of their comfort zone. They would rather stay in a deplorable situation than make a change. It’s that proverbial “frog in the boiling pot” syndrome, which isn’t at all true, by the way. The fact is that even a frog will be smart enough to jump out of the water when it gets too hot!
The truly successful entrepreneurs in business, as in life, are the ones who not only adapt to change but embrace it. They look at a changing scenario and think, “How can I take advantage of these changing times?” Great fortunes have been made in times of great change by those who were flexible enough to adapt. In our own times, look at the people who have made fortunes by taking advantage of the changing social media platforms, as opposed to those who sat back and called Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook passing fads.
It’s very simple. Adapt to change and thrive; resist change and die. From a neat little book titled Change Is Good, You Go First: 21 Ways to Inspire Change by Mac Anderson and Tom Feltenstein, here are six ways that you can inspire change in your own organization.
1. Change What Needs Changing—Not What’s Easy
Sometimes, people will see easy things to change—low hanging fruit. That’s a fine way to get started, but in the end, the real change that has to be done can be painful. Don’t stop at the easy stuff and then say “good enough is good enough;” once the process of change has begun stick to it. Instead, go with the momentum that doing the easy changes provided you.
2. Forget in Order to Succeed
Remember the 50 reasons why it won’t work? Forget everything you tried in the past. Oftentimes, when change is introduced, members of your team will wrack their brains, trying to find the few reasons why it might not work and what might go wrong. For example, a company will send out an effective newsletter to 1,000 people, and two of those people will take offense at something in the newsletter, so the company never sends out another one. The worst part is that for years to come, whenever anyone brings up the idea of sending out newsletters, they remember that one time, 20 years before, and refuse to do it again. That’s just plain stupid.
You have to get the entire team to believe that change is the right thing to do and that the changes you want to make are the right ones. It’s an “all hands on deck” situation. Everyone has to buy into it. And the most important thing is, as the top person in the company, you must support the change. Remember that everyone in the company takes their cues from the leader, so if you, as a leader, are change-averse, I have one bit of advice for you that might have guessed: CHANGE!
4. Remove Barriers
The company leader’s main job is to remove all the barriers to change. Make sure that the team’s path to change is as clear as possible and that you’re the one who has to do the clearing.
5. Communicate/Simplify the Message
“Peace, Land, and Bread,” the Russian revolution, was started by the use of these three simple words. The people were hungry, and they were tired of war. When the Bolsheviks showed up and promised them “Peace, Land, and Bread,” they converted the populace, and the rest is history. It’s all about simple communication; the simpler and easier, the better. Clear communication is the key element for causing change to happen.
6. Celebrate Your Successes
People love success and recognition. Start with small successes, and then build from them. Recognize those who are doing a good job not only adapting to but driving change. The more you recognize them for their achievements, the more they will become your best “change mongers.”
And one more, in the spirit of under-promising and over-delivering.
Keep at it whether you are making progress or slowing down. As the company leader, you must keep reinforcing the message and the need for change. Remember that change and the need for change will never stop, or you’ll get stuck in a "good is the enemy of great" situation. Keep at it. Be a change dynamo, and your company will grow and thrive.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.