7.28.2016

Embracing Change Means Disrupting Your Day

We recently gave a talk about change. At the start of the Q&A session, one young woman’s hand shot up. She brightly said into the microphone: “I am someone who loves change! I embrace change! I welcome change!”
She then paused, and asked a poignant yet plaintive question: “But how can I make sure that all this change doesn’t disrupt my day?”
How would you answer this question? Because the fact is, as funny as this question may sound, she puts voice to what many of us are thinking. How many of us truly want positive changes to happen around us – but still want to leave our own little worlds intact? How many of us really want our familiar, comforting routines replaced with radical changes in our ingrained habits, established relationships, hard-earned skills, fundamental attitudes, and treasured beliefs? Even when truly reinventing ourselves or our organization requires such changes? And even if we were willing to do that, how many of us would know where to start?
Unless we can answer the question posed by this audience member about how change threatens her day (and how to deal with its many implications), we and our teams, organizations and even societies will remain stuck. She happened to work for a bank, but she could have been speaking as a teacher, a corporate magnate, a government employee, a member of the U.S. Senate, or a homemaker. Unless we can align ourselves in myriad ways with the many “newnesses” that change requires, we ourselves will be the grit in our gears, grinding against change instead of smoothly shifting forward into the spaces we all currently agree we need to inhabit — but only in theory.
Why? Because our old approaches by definition cannot not create the new actions needed to move forward in different and more effective ways. And the individual level, this can hurt our career prospects, relationships, even our health. At the senior leadership level, it can influence other people’s careers and prospects as well.
Consider Steve Ballmer, who led Microsoft as its CEO from 2000 to 2014 as if his role were simply to keep the company afloat after Bill Gates left — what we call being a “leader-caretaker.” The recipe for ongoing success would be hardware and software: what had made it successful in the past. We have been told by Microsoft strategists during the Ballmer era that Ballmer ignored pleas by his senior management team to invest in cloud computing as far back as 2007. Instead, he placed all of Microsoft’s bets on the doomed Vista operating platform. He didn’t create strategic partnerships that could have established new growth and new channels in the marketplace. Under Ballmer, Microsoft stock went from almost $60/share in 2000, to just over $30/share when he left office in February 2014.
Then consider Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO since February 2014. Within 24 months, under Nadella, Microsoft became a leading expert on cloud computing, developing myriad products such as Delve, Power BI, Sway, Skype translator, Office 365, and Azure. Nadella also created strategic partnerships, even with competitors like Oracle and Salesforce, to increase Microsoft’s reach with consumers. This we call being a “leader-accelerator.” Two years after Nadella took the lead, the share price had rebounded 43% to $51.
The bottom line? Our mindsets have much to do with our day-do-day success. Is your mindset one of embracing change and seeing it as an incredible opportunity to take your game to the next level? Or does change — even change you know you need – rub you the wrong way? Being a leader-accelerator in your own life – pushing the envelope, viewing each new problem as an interesting one you simply haven’t solved yet, and embracing what Stanford researcher Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset” – is the best way forward in today’s tumultuous and global environment.
So when striving to make progress within your own sphere of influence by getting out of your comfort zone, will your day likely change? Absolutely. Because getting new results requires adopting new mindsets and exhibiting new behaviors. To get different results, by definition, means you are disrupting your daily routine.
The good news is that each day has the potential to be an improvement on the last.

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