Have you ever noticed how long we hold on to things? We hold on to old shoes, jeans, habits, friends, and many other things because they are comfortable. Our comfortable shoes and jeans may look the part thereby, limiting their ability to be worn only to certain places and events. Old friends may be holding you back, or you find that you have outgrown them. Old habits can be good, as can old friends, as long as we take an honest look at their contribution to our well being. I am not a shrink, but am human, and have dealt with all that I have mentioned so far, as you, no doubt have as well.
When I think about business strategies and their need to evolve, I think about the chameleon. They have this amazing ability to change color to adapt to the current surroundings, thereby, protecting them from natural predators. They can adapt to any situation that they find themselves in. Let that soak in for a minute….here is a species that has survived thousands of years by adapting to its present surroundings.
How good do you think your business would be if you were smartly reading the tea leaves all around you. Success as a leader is predicated on the leader’s ability to read what’s on the horizon and make the necessary changes to help the organization adapt to changing conditions. Sadly, most businesses rely too much on things that have worked in the past. You should continue those things that work, but, as leaders, we need to be willing to cut loose those practices and policies that do not work in today’s’ market. I am surprised at the number of companies that fail to do this, especially with their sales teams. Sales teams are the “front door” to your company. If they are not trained to be forward thinkers, then why do customers need them?
Employees crave training to keep their skills current. Companies acknowledge that they do not invest in keeping the skills current for their front line teams (and other employees). Training at most companies is viewed as an expense, not an investment. This happens because, as one manager told me years ago, “I know what the cost is, but I don’t know what the return is.” This gentleman went on to admit that he had no plan on how to manage his team that had gone through training. He did not know how to cope with the new market dynamics and thus, couldn’t see the benefit to keeping his team current because he didn’t know what to do with them when they got home. I appreciated his candor, but was shocked that this man had risen to such a high level job. As you might expect, new, better educated companies entered their market and quickly killed this 1,000 gorilla in the market.
We fear change because we are afraid at how it will make us look. We are afraid that some might ask “Why we haven’t done this sooner?” “Why didn’t we think of this?” “Do we have the right leader if he/she can’t see these trends?” We also are afraid to admit that maybe trends and technology, and therefore, the market, may have outgrown us. None of us like to feel obsolete, so we perpetuate an environment, culture and practices filled with those things that we know, even if it means a slow deathly drag on our business.
We all need to be life long learners and not be afraid of change. Fearing it isn’t going to stop it. Be a chameleon and adapt to the settings around you. As it does for them, it will help you to survive as well.