Whenever you take on a major improvement, breakthrough or transformation in your team or company, it is inevitable that along the way you will have successes and setbacks.
The bigger you play, the bigger your successes and/or setbacks will be. The only way to minimize the setbacks is to play smaller. The only way to increase the successes is to play bigger. You will have to determine what is more important for you.
When it comes to successes and/or setbacks mindset is everything.
I was in a meeting with a team that had taken on a big change initiative. We were meeting after two months to review progress and firm up the plan forward. At the start of the meeting team members were sharing and giving updates on what they had achieved in their team projects since the start of the process, where they had seen progress and where they had experienced setbacks or lack of progress.
In one case two managers presented the status of their project, which had to do with building a stronger alignment with their corporate head office finance team in order to simplify the approval process for expenses and customer discounts. They had quite a different outlook on their reality. They started by giving a factual report on what they had achieved and what they had not. Among the items that they didn’t achieve was “A clear agreement with corporate on new spending and discount self-approval levels.”.
One of them went on to say:
“Our relationship with corporate finance is still not working!”
The other manager jumped in with a different take: “It’s true that we didn’t meet our goal of agreeing to clear new self-approval levels, but we have made significant progress and achieved the following results: (1) Corporate acknowledged for the first time that we need more authority, (2) They agreed to work with us to reach the right change, and (3) We have the first meeting scheduled in two weeks. Based on that, our next breakthrough now is to reach that final agreement.”
You could refer to this as the glass-half-empty versus the glass-half-full personalities and mindsets or the optimist versus the pessimist. Both are a valid way to view it. The “Still not working” and “We have accomplished X and now we need to accomplish Y” are two very different paradigms.
- One owns the progress and the other avoids responsibility.
- One is looking toward the future and the other from the past.
- One is oriented around progress and the other around perfection.
When you take on a major improvement, breakthrough or transformation it is critical to stay focused on the future, own the journey, maintain your faith in the direction and keep looking for, and finding accomplishments and proof points for progress. It’s not a cheap spin on a grim reality. It’s a powerful and empowering interpretation that will keep you engaged and compelled to carry on.
When your benchmark for change is perfection, you may feel that you will never achieve it or even get close so you will give up. It is inevitable. But, when you keep seeing small, medium and/or large accomplishments, improvements and other proof points as progress, you will feel compelled and even excited to do more, achieve more and reach higher.
So, next time you feel like saying “X is still not working!” Think again. Look further to find what progress you have made and proclaim that. Then, look further again and declare what is the next breakthrough or progress you will take on next. Use the proof points of real, meaningful and specific signs of progress as the stepping stone to propel you forward to your ultimate future state.
Certain conversations will keep your future open with possibilities and your energy high. Other conversations will keep you cynical and stuck in the past.
I don’t need to ask, but which do you prefer…?