As I reflect over the companies large and small that I have had the privilege to partner with over the past decade, there is a consistent theme across those who have consistently improved and grown. That common thread is a culture of receptivity to change that permeates from senior most leadership to the front line.
Recruiting strategies are focused on it, and reward systems are based on it. These nimble companies realize that the ability for a company to adapt quickly to the rapidly changing marketplace is essential to not only thrive but to merely survive. In these companies, leadership isn't afraid of taking calculated risks. Employees aren’t afraid of failure, but instead make reasonable plans to mitigate risk and have the courage to quickly identify when a strategy isn’t performing. This allows for course correction before investing too much time and money.
In many change-rich cultures, though it certainly varies by industry, perfection often isn’t the goal for every new strategy. The goal is to implement the strategy when it’s 90 percent ready and then perfect it through the live-testing process. Waiting for perfection prior to rollout often has a high opportunity cost.
Creating a dynamic culture of change isn’t easy. After all, our brains are wired to avoid it. Cultural anthropologist, Andrea Simon, in a 2013 Forbes article titled “Why We’re So Afraid of Change — and Why That Holds Businesses Back,” said that our natural resistance to change boils down to these three realities.
Habits are powerful. Our brain limits what it sees over time and our current reality conforms to past perceptions — or what we know. Those early experiences prevent us from seeing things in new, innovative ways unless we push ourselves to do so.
Our brains hate change. As we learn something new, our prefrontal cortex is working in overdrive, and it is exhausting. That’s why our tendency is to stick with what we know versus pushing the proverbial boulder uphill.
You have to experience new ways of doing things to accept change, instead of just reading or talking about it. However, to do something new, you must actually allow the change to begin in the first place, despite any anxiety.
To get your company on the path to being agents of change, start by filling your leadership team with just that. Incorporate the quality of embracing change into your core values. Communicate the benefits of change and the reasons for it relentlessly. Give your employees a veritable safety net, where they are empowered to identify and initiate change knowing that leadership has their collective back no matter the outcome. Then redesign your recruiting, employee development and performance management strategies around it. When in doubt, just know that you aren’t alone. Many a leader has stepped into uncharted territory and felt unsure of what’s ahead, but when you push through those moments, that’s when breakthroughs occur.
Lori Turner-Wilson can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.