The most dangerous move in business is the failure to make a move at all. But change is uncomfortable; it even makes people afraid. The history of business is filled with companies that are no more because their leaders refused to enact change when the writing was on the wall. Fear. Apathy. Lack of personal responsibility. These simple human flaws can turn a good company into a dead company.
Just look at the changes in marketing in the last ten years. The internet, social media, mobile—they’ve all had a major impact in how we market. As you prepare to drive change and grow your business, here are three essential core concepts to keep top of mind.
Principles mean something only when they are inconvenient.
It is much harder to challenge the accepted ways of doing things in a company than it is to ignore these feelings and not act. Harder still is standing firm in your challenge when you feel uncomfortable, hate the way something is being done, or know that you shouldn’t be doing that thing at all. It’s easiest just to ignore these feelings and not act. Standing by your principles in these situations—when it is the risky and unpopular thing to do—is the test of a change agent’s mettle.
Now no decree—be it a new project or a change in a process—ever aligns everyone in agreement. There will always be people in business environments who think your way is the wrong way, even if they don’t have another way. You can have input from some of those people some of the time. But in the end, someone has to make a decision. That is usually left in cases like these to the ones least afraid of change. If that isn’t you, who would it be? And how would your team know they could trust you to support them if they tried to stand for something important down the road? If you are truly a change agent, no one ever has to guess what you are thinking. We tell you right up front.
Change the mood, change the culture, then move on to people and processes.
What can you do to perfect the mood of your company? Bad moods can ruin a company faster than bad business decisions. I hear leaders talk about changing the culture of a business, and I say fine, but the most important thing you can do is start by changing the mood. When you change the mood, you change the attitude and take the right steps toward changing the culture. A good mood makes your space and your people feel that the business' best days are in front of it. Start from the outside in: Does your branding reflect your business? Is it time to redesign your logo? Clean your office—a fresh coat of paint can go a long way to improve the morale in the office. Dress for success—implement a dress code that instills motivation and a positive mood. Make your business look and feel alive!
Work across the seams of the company. Stick your nose into everything. Be a cheerleader and a white buffalo. Cause tension at every turn.
The gauntlet of change is cruel, and change agents are exposed to all of its dastardly personnel. Since this is the case, leaders need to be seam operators by working across the seams of the company. Two things seam operators don’t do:
- They don’t get involved in day-to-day processes outside of setting the operating principles.
- They don’t need to know too many details. They’ve already been through the steps before, and they don’t need it explained again.
I tell my team all the time, “I don’t want to know or hear about how sausage is made unless someone died. I get it. It’s sausage. Tell me what I need to know to get things moving.”
Your job should be to find out what is breaking down within the seams of your company. Change agents identify problems and then find ways to fix them or bring in people who can.
Change is going to be difficult for any business leader to drive, so in the words of Thomas A. Edison, remember, “Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” Prepare, plan and progress.