“Change before you have to”. Wise words from Jack Welch Ex-CEO of GE, and a visionary man who took the company to the next level. He made GE a market leader, a profitable organisation and a great place to work.
We have all been in situations where we doubt change – why bother? Our current circumstances are ‘not that bad’. Therefore, we don’t have to change.
This is our comfort zone speaking, our resistance to change that handicaps us from being visionary and anticipating things. I’ve seen changes and dreams postponed because of that lack of conviction and adapting to a status quo that doesn’t work, or part of it doesn’t work. And I’ve seen how people and organisations have been forced to change because of pressing personal circumstances or market competition. I like the quote because it reminds me to “bother”! Don’t linger and postpone changes until circumstances make you take action. Because you will be at a disadvantage, your change journey will be rougher, and you will have more to overcome to win the same. So, make the change before you have to. Set up goals and kick them off as soon as you start feeling the need to change something in your business or personal life.
What does it take to change?
On a higher level, you need courage, focus and determination. If you are a business owner or a leader, additionally, you need leadership skills and charisma. But below those, you have to develop 5 essential traits, which will be your power, your asset in the face of change.
Find out the reality behind your front door. Find out how and why things work and what the rest of humanity is up to. You need to do two things to accomplish this: travel and read. A journey takes you out of your comfort zone and offers you the opportunity to know new places and cultures. Nothing enriches you more than seeing and learning how others deal with life. So get on that plane, train or jump in a car, go somewhere new and learn about a different culture, food, customs, and nature. It will bring perspective into your life.
Read. Read. Read! Books, not news, posts and articles. Books are stories with a Beginning and an End, with characters, examples and tons of knowledge. If you don’t have time to read, listen to books whilst you are in movement, working, exercising… And when you learn about something you are interested in, read more about it. Be curious.
Challenge the status quo
It is a paradox: as children, we grow up asking questions, but by the time we become adults, we learn to accept the status quo. However, as adults, we often have to change things in life. And we are torn between the widely accepted status quo and the need to make things work better. We hang tight on the belief: that it has always been done this way. Why change something that works. We will even further convince ourselves that something works when it doesn’t. We will look at the data (the most objective form of facts) from the angle that gives us the results we want to see.
So, I invite you to be childish again. To be curious and ask questions. To challenge the accepted standards for a change that matters. One of the most powerful techniques is asking questions. Use the 5Why technique. Ask ‘why” 5 times, not only once or twice, and it will take you to the root cause of why something does not work. You can use the approach to challenge what I call the ‘but’s and the don’ts’, the objections you get when faced with resistance (your own or others’).
Dream big, act small
Making one significant radical change in your life or your business is not only tricky, but it can also be counterproductive. We live in complex and intertwined societies with high dependencies on others: family, friends, suppliers, bosses. We also tend to have limited resources: time, money, teams, and even knowledge. But we need to move forward to make change happen or make our dreams come true. We should dream big, but we need to focus on small, quick wins, which will bring us two benefits: positive results feed our experience and increase our self-esteem. They also help address resistance to change by showing step-by-step progress. So, think big, dream big, act small, and focus on specific goals.
Accept or ignore criticism
When you change things, you do things differently from most people. And that is usually subject to critics because you are unconventional, and others don’t fully understand your vision. They judge you by their standards. Becoming immune to critics is something you can learn only through experience. And one way to deal with it is to understand why people criticise you. Find out if they project their reality on you or don’t see the complete picture of your transformation. Try to accept that you can not make everybody happy. There will always be somebody disapproving of your way of dealing with life and business.
To make changes, you need to plan. Planning is essential because you have limited resources, especially time. And when you want to make a change, it takes time. It takes dedication. So you have to prepare to take the time for it and carry out the actions to achieve your goal. You also have to devise your budget, the team you might need, and the risks you will most probably face (and how will you address them). A plan can take the shape of a Roadmap or a Gant chart or even a list of bullet points. But you have to make it. Otherwise, actions remain abstract ideas and goals wishful thinking.