Tag Archive for: change

Taking a stand ALWAYS requires courage

No matter how committed we are to living courageously, and how experienced we are at taking a stand for the future and living accordingly, it doesn’t seem to get easier or less scary with time.

I have been a student and teacher of these concepts and conversations for more than 30 years. I practice them in my own personal and professional life, and I teach and coach others to do the same. Still, with all my experience, every time I need to take a stand in my life, I find myself confronting my own fears, doubts and skepticisms.

It takes openness, faith, trust and courage to live consistently with your stand and commitment.

Openness to the idea that our internal mindset and commitment really do affect, impact and shape our external world and circumstances.

Most people don’t reach this level of enlightenment. They are too skeptical, pragmatic or close-minded to even consider or accept the notion that there is more to life than what they can physically see. Whether it is Religion, Astrology, or the Law of Attraction, I often hear smart and successful people reject these by saying things like, “I don’t believe in that Voodoo, BS or Nonsense stuff…”

Faith and trust in your own ability to take your life to a new level, starting with a bold stand. Also, have faith and trust that the universe will reciprocate consistently with your commitment and energy.

Even when people believe in the Law of Attraction notion, many don’t believe that it could work for them – that their life could ever be as blissful as they truly desire. So, they maintain a conceptual, theoretical and academic mindset about these transformational topics. I often hear people give others ‘taking the next level’ advice when they themselves avoid doing the same, even though they desperately want and need to.

Courage to take a stand for what you want and bet your future on that stand – even when your current circumstances are quite different from your desired state, and people around you may judge you for being naïve and unrealistic.

Most people, despite what they may say to the contrary, are too comfortable in their personal and professional status quo. They may talk about change, but most don’t get up and do something about it, even when their circumstances are challenging, unfulfilling and dissatisfying. They are too afraid to take a stand and ‘go for it’ for risk of failing, disappointing themselves or others, or simply appearing naive or not credible in the eyes of people around them who they respect and like.

There is a big difference between “wanting to change” and actually “changing.” Most of us are much better at the first.

We are creatures of habit. We like continuity, stability, familiarity, and predictability. We need it to feel confident and safe. We fear change and the unknown.

Taking a stand for a better future brings about change, unknown and unpredictable directions, and dynamics. This is counter-intuitive to our ‘keep things the same’ orientation. It disrupts our order and fundamentally scares us.

That is why taking a stand will ALWAYS require courage.

Photo by: The U.S. Army


Why Are Leaders So Afraid of Change?

It’s common for organizations and teams to undergo changes in leadership or structure.

This typically happens when organizations make cuts in their workforce, when they spinoff businesses or functions, or when they merge with, or acquire new businesses or functions into their portfolio.

Change also takes place when a new leader is brought from outside to lead the team, or when an internal member of the leadership team is promoted to become the new leader or CEO of the group.

These types of events always provide leaders with opportunities to create a new chapter and new beginnings, which is a very good thing.

I think most people would agree that it doesn’t really work to simply jump from one chapter to another without a proper transition phase. The transition doesn’t have to be long. However, organizations and teams need the chance to bring closure and completion to how they’ve done things in the previous chapter before they can fully start the next chapter of doing something in a new or different way.

The bigger the change, the bigger and more important the transition phase. Those who underestimate this often find themselves carrying forward old baggage from one initiative, chapter or relationship to the next. As a result they often repeat the same mistakes and fall into the same traps and dysfunctional dynamics.

In organizations, people refer to the management of transitioning between phases as “Change Management.” Unfortunately, most organizations and teams are not good at this.

Leaders have an essential role in leading their organization through the transition between the old and the new.

What is the role of the leaders?

Please click here to read the rest of this article which I recently published in Entrepreneur.com about what is the role of leaders in change and why most leaders are afraid of change and their role in driving it?

Photo via Entrepreneur article

The Risk of Circumstantial Decisions

I was chatting with a good friend who is in a major career junction in his life. My friend is a fairly senior leader in one of the service functions in his company. He had been doing the same type of job for the last 15 years. Over these years, he advanced, he was promoted and grew the scope of his responsibilities. However, he remained in the same function serving similar business and sales units for all these years.

He was mentally tired of doing the same thing for so long. He felt he needed a change. He just wasn’t sure what the change should be.

His dilemma was – to look yet again for the next-level role within the same support function he was already a part of, or to make a more radical move into one of the business units in order to start a new career in sales.

As he put it: “I could climb one more rung in the same ladder or put myself at the bottom of a new scale.”

The prospect of starting a whole new career in sales was the more appealing option to my friend. In fact, he received an attractive offer to transition into one of the local sales organizations as a sales leader. However, he had many reservations and fears about this potential transition.

As we were sipping our tea, he outlined the pros and cons of this decision.

His main pros were: (1) His direct functional boss supported his move out of the function, (2) The regional and local sales leaders also supported his move into their organization, and (3) The regional sales leader even offered allowances in responsibility to support his transition into the role.

The offer my friend received to move into sales seemed very appealing. In fact, my friend described it as a “once-in-a-lifetime offer not to be missed.”

On the other hand, my friend’s main cons and fears were: (1) what if he failed, (2) what if he disappointed the people who believed in him, and (3) his direct boss, as well as the regional and local sales leaders were themselves in a career junction and looking for their next assignment, so the likelihood of them staying around in the long term seemed slim.

My friend turned to me and asked – “What should I do?”

My guidance to him was:

1. You should feel very proud about the offer you received to move from a support function to sales. Not many people receive such an offer. It is a testament to your great personality, brand and leadership qualities and energy.
2. However, only accept the offer to move into sales if you are sure you want to develop a new career in sales. In other words, being a sales leader should be your aspiration and you must be willing to do what it takes to learn this new trait.
3. No matter how much encouragement and support you are currently receiving from people around you to make the move, sooner or later these people will all move on and you will be left alone, needing to stand on your own two feet. So, only make the move if you are fully prepared to continue your course with enthusiasm if/when this happens.
4. In fact, even the allowances that the regional sales leader is making today will soon expire and you will be expected to perform the complete duties of a sales leader, with all the personal stress associated with it.
5. In addition, given that you are “putting yourself on the bottom of a new scale,” it is inevitable that you will make mistakes, screw up, fail and disappoint people around you. Furthermore, there will be many moments along your journey when you will feel inadequate and that you are letting others down. It comes with the territory.
6. Because of all these things – ONLY make the decision to move to sales if this decision is based on your personal stand, not on circumstances and expectations. I call this type of decision an unconditional decision.

The moral of the story is:

When you base your decision on circumstances and these circumstances change, as they often do, the whole foundation for your decision is invalidated and you can easily abandon your direction or give up.

But, if you base your decision purely on your stand – even if circumstances around you change or worsen, the merit of your decision remains in tact and you are likely to stay the course and weather even the fiercest of storms.

Photo by: Daniel Oines

The only constant is change

For years, in my work in the corporate world, I’ve heard the slogan “change is the only constant,” but it has always seemed hollow to me. Instead of developing a workforce and leaders who are nimble and capable of constantly adapting, many organizations in the business world are, in fact, having a very difficult time adjusting to change. Sudden changes in their operating environment seem to cause them to hit the reactive, panic button, laying off employees; slashing development, improvement, and quality programs; cutting off contracts with suppliers; and retreating into downsizing.

Even though companies and organizations say they will make their cuts strategically, this is most often not what happens. Instead, the cuts often turn out to be “across the board” and irrational, damaging the organization’s short-term and future interests, while preserving the deadwood and the obsolete. The best and the brightest are often the ones who “take the package” and move on.

Needless to say, this plays havoc with organizational culture. I’ve seen it happen many times: Employees quickly become anxious, fearful and cynical; they stop seeing themselves as having a long-term future within the organization. Their loyalty to the company, and sometimes to each other, declines dramatically. It’s “everyone for themselves.” The loss is more than financial. The biggest cost is to the spirit of the organization: demoralization; lost confidence, morale and investment; and a decline in people’s commitment to, and ownership of the company.

In one organization I know, the CEO reacted immediately to one of the recent downturns, pulling the trigger on across-the-board cuts without consultation. In doing so, he destroyed a brilliantly successful change initiative that was under way, which had already made a dramatic improvement in the company’s bottom line. Needless to say, when the market began to recover, he lost a significant number of his best people, who had just been waiting for a chance to jump ship.

Here’s another example: A division head of a global company took a completely different approach, for which he endured some tough scrutiny from the head office and other divisions. He trimmed expenses very carefully and strategically ‐ first by laying off a very few under-performers, and then by gathering his leadership team and having in-depth conversations about how to implement further cost reductions while boosting morale. People agreed to switch roles and take on more responsibility, working hard to make the changes successful. The division was the only one in the company to achieve its targets throughout the toughest time, and the division head attracted support and admiration from across the company ‐ as well as a promotion.

The young adults who are now graduating from universities do not expect that they will be able to stay in a firm for the long term, or that the firm will be loyal to them. The concept of “job for life” has long gone by. Therefore, they are only prepared to make a limited investment in a workplace that may well use them up and spit them out. They also want a more balanced life than their parents had, and they are not willing to sacrifice their own families, relationships and children to the interests of an employer.

In the coming years, companies will be forced to look hard at their people practices if they want to survive the ups and downs and come out the other side with an engaged, motivated, aligned workforce, and a loyal clientele that will continue to buy their products and services.

It may be too early to tell, but it seems as if we are all learning to live with more instability than before. The recession that started in 2008 has never really ended, and the roller-coaster seems constantly off again.

There is no gyroscope for managing organizations through uncertainty and upheaval, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that a set of constant cultural or people-values and a long-term vision are more important than ever ‐ because the era of constant change has finally arrived, and slogans alone just aren’t going to cut it.

Does retirement still make sense?

I recently read an intriguing statistic about retirement: “people who retire at 55 are 60% more likely to pass away within 10 years of retiring than people who retire at 65.”

Intuitively, this makes sense. Many people work hard for years, looking forward to a distant future when they will retire and finally begin to live their real lives. And yet, when they get there, they are ill-equipped for this sudden, dramatic change in their daily routine. When confronted with all the time in the world to play golf, they feel as if they have fallen off a cliff.

All the sacrifices people make throughout their working lives do not seem to guarantee happiness and prosperity – often because a person’s identity has been so closely wrapped up with what they do, rather than who they are. When they reach the “promised land” of retirement, it doesn’t take long before they start reminiscing about “the good old days.”

This is a real shame. When do we take the time to savor, to enjoy, and to be passionate about what we are doing? If anything needs to retire, it’s the legacy mindset that drives this behavior! Look around: when people love what they do, the idea of stopping solely because they have reached some arbitrary age is not only unwise, it is unhealthy.

Retirement stems from a time when work was by definition physical and hard. The body reached a point where it was no longer capable of continuing – and there was an imperative to make way for younger people. But work in knowledge economies is increasingly based on what people know, and what they can produce using their imagination, heart, and commitment.

Times have changed: age doesn’t matter for most knowledge activities. In fact, the experience, wisdom, and networks that come with age are considerable assets. As a result a person’s ability to continue doing something that excites and motivates them is virtually unlimited, even for those who have not been accustomed to this type of thinking. And, the fact that people are living longer is only making this point of view more relevant.

Think about it: if you are doing what you love, if you love what you’re doing, you never need to retire. Instead of looking forward to retirement as a time to “get off the train,” you could look to it as time to change gears and explore new exciting directions. Instead of running away from something you could run toward something.

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? No matter where you are, or who you are, you have the ability to think differently. It takes courage but it’s our birthright and an innate ability. Instead of retiring from something, you could choose to create something new that excites you. A wise friend once told me that in order to stay young longer, you have to be up to something and stay engaged with people. The traditional idea of retirement seems to contradict that.

Consider what your future would look like without the word “retirement” in it at all. This would be a very different relationship to aging.

It’s Easier Than Ever to Make a Difference

Apathy, resignation and cynicism are the enemy of everything that is good and the friend of everything that is bad. When employees and managers come to believe that they can’t make a difference, the organization is doomed to mediocrity at best, and to failure at worst. Unfortunately, I see this take place on a regular basis. However, in my years of experience with client organizations – going back long before the rise of social media – I have also seen many examples of how a single person who is courageous and determined to effect change can start a movement.

Here’s one example: Many years ago, I worked with a woman who was a secretary in the finance division of a large, multi-national corporation. This woman’s rank in the organization was lowly, and she could easily have gone unnoticed. The company had been through a difficult series of downsizing measures. Morale was at an all-time low, customer satisfaction was suffering badly, and there were many issues inhibiting productivity. That year, the division was ordered to reduce its work force by 40 percent as part of an across-the-board cost-cutting measure. This was a devastating blow to the team.

The secretary volunteered to chair a team focused on taking care of the people being let go. She was determined to help everyone (who wanted assistance) find alternative jobs either inside the division or externally, thereby minimizing the morale issues. She enrolled a team of like-minded people and they all worked diligently, with great passion and courage, to pursue her mission. She and her team succeeded in securing jobs for a large percentage of the employees. That year, employee satisfaction rose significantly, and so did customer satisfaction. Most people attributed the remarkable outcome to this one woman’s leadership.

Although she had previously been perceived as a “nobody,” the woman became a widely recognized, admired, and respected leader. Her courage and commitment brought her influence, credibility, and status. She was later promoted, and when certain projects had to get done she was frequently invited to senior leadership team meetings because senior executives recognized her immense value and contribution to the organization’s advancement.

Twenty years ago, this kind of transformation required slow and painstaking efforts. Now, technology is transforming our ability to propagate change, and recent global events are the best illustration of this. We are all witnessing how social media and technologies that allow people to communicate easily over long distances are making profound changes in our society.

It may take less time, but it does not take any less courage to organize a movement through Facebook than it took to stand up and be counted in an organization where transformation required reaching one person at a time and convincing people one by one. That said, it is simpler today to make a difference in organizations because it is so much faster and easier to generate and facilitate a broad-based dialogue. But courageous leadership was taking transformation viral long before we had the technology to speed it up. If you ever feel that you cannot make a difference, remember this constant truth: The human spirit, courage, commitment, and determination are still the factors that drive all change.