2013, The Year of Leadership and Healing
The Sweet Spot

Change Early, Not Late

Seth-ChangeEarlyLatePage 24 and 25 of This Might Work This Might Not Work (Behemoth) by Seth Godin

This is EXACTLY right.

I remember years ago, my father, one of the best judges of people as an HR guy that I ever knew, said to me as we were talking about one of my consulting projects,

"Son, the best time to fire someone is before you hire them."

My rule of thumb #2 (Rule of Thumb #1 is "Everyone needs an editor.") is

"Never wait to change. It only complicates things and makes them harder."

Ok. That said, there is a continuum of change response that is worth recognizing.

ChangeResponses-Simple
Don't take Seth's words or mine as license to become a Change Junkie.

Instead, ask what is your purpose or mission, and will this change make it more likely that you'll achieve it.

Let's reorient this whole question.

The question should not be "To change or not to change"

The question should be "What change do I need to make right now?"

The assumption is that change is normal and necessary.

It is what we now call adaptability which is how we function in the transitions that we are constantly experiencing in our lives and work.

The Five Questions - HandoutPostcard

The first question of The Five Questions that everyone must ask is ...

What has Changed? How am I in transition?

If you are in the midst of a serious, overwhelming transition, then ask this question.

When was the last time I was happy, content and at peace with my work and life?

Whether your memory of that time is accurate or an illusion, it does not matter. What does is that the memory of this point in time is a starting point in understanding that transition that you are in.

Ask about what changed during this time? What changed about your perception of your purpose or in your relationships or possibly with the context of the work you do. These are three areas that are always present in our lives, and where our awareness of change has its greatest impact.

The second thing to recognize about this memory of a time in the past is that it reveals two things. The first are values that matter to us that we'd like reinforce or reinvigorate in our life or work. The second thing is that it points to a desire or desires in our heart that tell us what we love and want to see as central to our lives.

For example, lets say your company is bought out by a larger firm. Your memory points to how the company used to be like a family, where everyone care for one another. Now, that family feel is gone, and the pressure to perform is greater than you have ever experienced.

What you discover in that memory are the values of relationship and connection in the work place, and, that you love working for a smaller firm.

With that awareness, you can better understand the transition that you are in, and, the change that might be necessary in order to find that place of work and life that is meaningful for you.

This is what change is really about. Finding the right place where our desires for meaning, relationships that are happy and healthy, and a place where I feel my life matters can be realized.

So Change Early, Not Late. When you know that change is necessary, then begin the process of planning for that change.

What you'll find is that your capacity to change not only grows, but its negative impact upon your life diminishes. Why is this?

What I've discovered is that as we change, the speed of change increases. As it increases, it becomes simpler. Holding back changes inevitably means we must manage a host of obligations and expectations that have been thrust upon us by situations and people that may or may not carry meaning or impact for us.

The key is being very clear about your values, your purpose, and, how your team or group works together in the context of the transition that is taking place.

Doing the same things in the same way is not how we avoid the risks of change. It is how we embrace of the risk of irrelevance.

The risk of not changing is greater than the risk of changing.This is because we may think that not changing is just one decision, the same one, repeated over and over again, day after day.

To embrace change as the process of the transition we are in is to see that every decision is a new one and that when we make those according to values, purpose and a clarity about the impact we want, then we move forward to those decisions to see the path forward.

James C. Collins, who along with Jerry Porras wrote Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies make this point about how we function in an environment of transition.

“Visionary companies make some of their best moves by experimentation, trial and error, opportunism, and—quite literally—accident. What looks in retrospect like brilliant foresight and preplanning was often the result of “Let’s just try a lot of stuff and keep what works.”

 There is a fluidness about change, that once encounter, we discover a sense of flow moving through the moments of decision.

Simply put, change and change often. Not as a change-junkie, but as a responsible leader who both initiates and responds to change. Learn to do this and you'll never miss the fear and the doubt that accompanies change decisions. You'll find that the stress of change is not in the change itself, but rather in growing into a mindset that almost sees the connection between the past, present and future as happening simultaneously. I know this sounds crazy, but this is exactly what my own experience has been.

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