This time of year, many of my clients are talking about resolutions. Some are business related, some are personal. Yet, by the end of January, many will have been forgotten or abandoned, even if some small improvement in habit or outcome was quickly achieved.
The makers of the resolutions will accept the inevitability of their lack of follow through, some with a shrug and others with self-recrimination. Neither of these generates energy. Rather, they perpetuate inertia, the enemy of improvement.
The power of inertia is frequently overlooked when an individual or organization sets out to make changes. When a change is attempted but unsuccessful, the result is not a return to the prior state. The condition of the organization or individual is worse. Why? People lose confidence, perhaps in themselves, their leaders or both. It may be slight, barely noticeable or covered over by “well we learned from it.” If learning does indeed take place, great! Too often it is a bromide rather than a reality.
Repeated attempts to make improvements lead to inertia and eventually, cynicism. This is deadly.
If you have people in your organization who lack motivation and enthusiasm, despite your efforts to show them a promising future and their role in it, let go. Motivation is largely from the inside.
Now for the hard part-checking yourself for inertia. How convinced are you that the improvements you seek are possible and likely? What will you do to achieve them?
First, start with the end in mind. What is the outcome or result you seek?
- Grow market share
- Improve branding
- Expand to new territory
- Pivot your strategy
Don’t settle for inputs insist on outcomes. Innovation, big data, analytics, engagement, etc. are means to ends. What are the ends you seek? This is your most important step. People will argue until the cows come home about methods that, until they are anchored in outcomes, are irrelevant.
Second, ask, What do I need to do?
The great Peter Drucker said the job of managers is to manage themselves. Managing your own behavior may include making changes in your team but it’s still you that must take action.
Third — What do we need to do?
Talk to those who will help implement the plans. Keep it at a high level first. Diving into tactics too soon threatens your strategic ideas, kills energy and pulls you backwards. Take note of the tacticians on your team-can they think strategically? Are the strategists also pragmatic? You need people who have the intellectual flexibility to change altitude.
Fourth — What do we need to let go of?
Now it gets tough.
This is why people think change is hard. Why it strikes fear in our hearts. Why? It involves feelings of loss. This is an emotion and we aren’t talked out of emotion. We must be inspired out of it. Here’s how:
- This is where we are going
- Here is how you fit into the new plan
- This is why we need you to be part of it
If you attempt a change and are not successful, don’t give up. The time to initiate a change is when you realize it would beneficial. That might be on January 1st or February 11th or July 14th (Bastille Day). It could be today.
I leave you with my final question. If not now-when?