How to sustain your excitement with the change you want?

Have you ever attended a really powerful and great strategic planning meeting at work where at the end of the meeting you felt truly excited, inspired and hopeful about the new future direction? But then you returned back to your day-to-day work environment and it wasn’t long before the routine, workload, churn and perhaps cynicism around you set back in and you lost that sense of optimism and excitement that you had in that meeting?

So how do you sustain your excitement toward a new direction or the change you want to bring about?

Here are a few practical suggestions:

  1. Speak to as many people as you can about it. The more people you will inform and engage in the new future the bigger the conversation you are creating around you about the future. The more participants and “partners” you have in the new direction the easier it will be for you to stay focused and excited about it.
  2. Reference the new direction or strategy in every conversation or meeting. If you believe in the future and you find it relevant, the best way to keep it alive is to keep bringing it up. Keep it real! The more you reference the new direction and strategy the more real you will make it for yourself and others.
  3. Look for opportunities to declare and reaffirm your commitment to the new direction or strategy. The more you speak to people about the new direction and declare your commitment and stand, the more your commitment will empower and energize you back.
  4. Establish clear and effective action plans to achieve and drive your new direction and strategy. Your declarations will strengthen your sense of purpose, your energy and your mental resolve. Clear plans will compel you and others into action. Declarations without action plans tend to feel hollow and they tend to die off. Action plans without clear purpose and context quickly turn into uninspiring busywork. The combination of both purpose and action is very powerful.
  5. Acknowledge, recognize and praise others who stand for, reference and live up to the new direction and future. Basic leadership is to lead by example. A higher level of leadership is to promote others to do the same. A powerful way to do that is to acknowledge, recognize and praise leadership and future-based behavior in others. This practice will also, come back to empower and energize you too.

Declaring your commitment and what you stand for provides you the opportunity to express yourself, be courageous and authentic. Doing these will most definitely empower and energize you.

We are often consumed in our day-to-day by the same concerns, worries and anxieties that come from our past. By focusing on, promoting and staking yourself to the new future direction and strategy you are shifting your orientation and reference point from the past to the future. That shift is real and it will elevate your energy and excitement.

Most people are most happy, energized and alive when they are true to themselves authentic, courageous and self-expressed.

I hope you can you find all these on my list.

Is “good” good enough for you?

Here’s my high-level assessment of corporate and business teams:

  • Many, perhaps most are dysfunctional or mediocre.
  • Some are good.
  • Few are excellent.

Unfortunately – this report card doesn’t directly correlate with business results.

I say “unfortunately” because pretty much every team talks about wanting to become more effective and some version of moving from “good to great” yadda, yadda, yadda.  However, for most teams this desire lives as a “good idea”, not a “must do”.

If only great teams produced great results it would be easier for the dysfunctional and mediocre, and even good teams to confront and own the consequence of their inadequacy.

But, things don’t work that way and there are a lot of dysfunctional and mediocre teams who still achieve good, even great results.

Part of the problem is that we use a very narrow definition of what constitutes “Great results”. For the most part, it means – revenues, profitability and stock performance.

Contrary to what many executives say about people being their most important asset, there are simply too many examples of companies… well-known companies… who are obsessed with achieving great financial results while treating their people like crap.

There are only a few truly excellent teams because there are only a few truly excellent leaders who care not just about the bottom line, but also about the corporate culture, their people and the way team members interact and go about performing their work.

These leaders don’t tolerate or settle for less than excellence in all aspects of their organization, including in areas that don’t require it in order for the company to succeed, or areas that are not visible to everyone. They don’t cut corners because they relate to excellence as a value, an end, not a means, and the best and only way to do business. They also don’t use cost as an excuse for not driving excellence.

It is always easier to help teams who are dysfunctional to move from “good” to “great” when things are dysfunctional everyone is anxious and on board to turn things around, fix the problems and get the company out of a bad predicament.

But, helping the “good” teams move to “excellent” that is the hardest challenge, because when things are good people often settle and feel that good is “good enough”.

I was working with a technology company that was going through a decline in their corporate culture, business results and brand. When I started to work with them all the executives and managers were eager to turn things around. It wasn’t easy for them to face reality and own their predicament, but when they got over it everyone was on board for the intense remediation plan we put in place for the following year. The plan worked and after a year of quarterly meetings and task forces between them, the company started to turn around. In fact, at the end of that first year, they had achieved the best results in their history, their reputation in the market had improved dramatically and the overall the mood and spirit, at least at the managers and executive levels were at an all-time high. People felt great.

Everyone knew that the recovery plan was a two-year to three-year plan. Everyone signed up for that at the outset. However, the second year was very different from the first one from a commitment and energy standpoint.

The minute the results turned the corner and people felt good they started to get lax and complacent with the program. Meetings were delayed or cancelled, deadlines were not driven or met and overall the humble, self-reflective sentiments that I heard when we started the process turned into more arrogant rhetoric about how they were better than everyone else in the market.

One of the reasons most dysfunctional teams don’t sustain their peaks and breakthroughs when they reach these is because they get lax and complacent and they start losing ground again. I have seen it happen so many times.

“Good” is the enemy of “Excellence”, good makes people complacent, lazy and comfortable. Because there are so many dysfunctional and mediocre teams out there, the good ones stand out as better. Many justify their lack of drive for excellence by explaining that they are better than their competitors. Some are best in their industry.

But, “Better than good” is still a long way from “Excellent”. In addition, you could be better than everyone else around you and still not even close to what you could achieve.

So, you have to decide – is “good” good enough for you?

Stop focusing on lagging indicators!

I was supporting a technology company that was going through tremendous growth and change. They had ripped apart and restructured their entire business and they were working very hard on integrating the new pieces.

Even though they were going through all this change they were given no relief from achieving their bold sales numbers. What made things worse is that they had fallen short in their few previous quarters. Needless to say, the pressure and stress were very high. Everyone was focused on achieving the next quarter’s results.

But, a growing number of leaders were becoming frustrated. They felt that the short-term focus was part of the problem. They believed that the team’s single focus on the next thirty-day and ninety-day results was perpetuating the short-term challenges and problems that were causing the continuous shortfalls. The short-term focus was preventing the team from coming up with longer-term strategies that may not help in the near future but would lay the foundation for elevating the team out of its predicament in the longer run.

It was hard for this team to change its mindset.  Many leaders felt that if the team doesn’t make its short-term results the company won’t have a longer-term future.

Have you ever been in a situation like this? Where your existing results were in jeopardy and even though you knew that reacting to the poor results in the short term would be a mistake you couldn’t help but do so.

I see this dynamic in organizations all the time.

Many leaders don’t seem to understand that their business results are lagging indicators, therefore focusing on them, or reacting to them is the wrong thing to do.

You don’t want to focus on the lagging indicator. You want to focus on their source.

Context is the source of results.  In organizations context manifests through the culture of the organization: how people at all levels, functions and locations behave and act, what people consider possible and impossible, achievable and unachievable, and the degree to which people feel that they matter, they can make a difference and they can affect and change things.

Leaders who understand this know that they have to focus on and nurture their people’s ownership, commitment, empowerment and motivation. Everything else falls out of that.

If your people are frustrated, they feel like the company is not doing the right things and they can’t speak up or influence and change that, they’ll leave or worse – they will stay as skeptical, cynical and resigned team members. You can be sure that if this happens the results will start stalling or declining – it’s not a matter of if, only when.

But, if your people feel genuinely excited and committed; that they matter and they can make a difference, they will own the objectives and they will go the extra mile to reach them. And, if the results are declining, they will work together in a very transparent and candid way to get to the source of the issues and turn things around.

Your people’s level of excitement, commitment and ownership, as well as their clarity of destination and sense of empowerment to make the difference in achieving it, is your leading indicator of success.

Strong results will dry up when the context is weak. On the other hand, a strong context will overcome any bad results! And, don’t get confused about the benchmark: you could be better than your competitors, even the best in your industry and still be much less than you could be.

If you and your team are clear about who you are, what you stand for, what you are committed to, and you have a plan, and then you and your team act and behave consistently with your commitments, values and plan, it is only a matter of when, not if you will achieve what you want.

The universe three tests rule – a Fable:

A team of professionals who were successful for many years in their craft decided to take their game to a new level. They took on a bold stand and aligned on a set of audacious objectives to leap themselves beyond anything they have ever done or achieved before.

The universe listened to their declaration and said skeptically: “I have heard so many empty declarations. What is different with this team?

To check them out, the universe threw at them a few small obstacles and challenges to make their new endeavor more challenging.

The professionals remained calm and collected, they stayed the course, overcame these small curveballs and moved on.

The universe took notice, but it wasn’t overly impressed. “Beginner’s luck,” it said as it released a bigger wave of issues and problems for the professionals to deal with.

These bigger obstacles definitely raffled the professional’s feathers. They scrambled and struggled to overcome the problems. Their partnership and trust were strained. However, eventually, they figured it out and continued forward with commitment and resolve.

OK, you have my attention!” the universe stated. “Now let’s see if you are truly for real.” The universe unleashed issues, challenges, problems and unfavorable circumstances bigger than the first two times combined.

The team scrambled and struggled. Their performance and results declined, some of their people gave up and left, and their own partnership, trust and belief in the future were significantly strained. But, at the end they endured, they figured it out and continued forward with commitment and resolve.

The universe, who was taking notice the whole time finally exclaimed: “Yes! You are for real!” and then everything began to change. Instead of issues, problems and obstacles, the universe started sending favorable incidents, meetings, material assistant and circumstances that the team couldn’t have anticipated would come their way. As a result, they started to gain momentum towards their desired change and eventually achieved it.

The End!

Most teams give up too quickly!

Their first mistake – they focus on the results, which are lagging indicators.

Their second mistake – they don’t focus on nurturing people’s commitment, ownership and empowerment, which are leading indicators.

Their third mistake – they don’t stay the course for long enough to pass the universe three tests and get to the other side, where they could reap the rewards.