You look around your organization and you get the feeling that people are way too relaxed. Yes, everyone is working hard, but they’re stuck in a rut, doing things the same old way.
Meanwhile, all you need to do is glance at the headlines to see that the cold wind of change is blowing. Companies that were successful just a few years ago are shutting their doors. Disrupters are emerging from every garage. And Amazon’s coming for all of us.
How, then, can you shake up your organization to make the big changes you need to survive — and hopefully thrive — in today’s business environment? According to Allen Adamson and Joel Steckel, authors of Shift Ahead: How the Best Companies Stay Relevant in a Fast-Changing World, the first step starts with you.
“A leader must be able to tolerate uncertainty and keep the troops in a positive frame of mind throughout the process,” Adamson and Steckel write. “To borrow from Star Trek, the leader must have what it takes to ‘boldly go where no man has gone before,’ and demonstrate a personal commitment to driving change forward.”
How? The authors advise that you take 5 actions:
1. Escape your bubble. Too many leaders are so focused on internal operations that they don’t have an accurate picture of what’s going on with customers, the competition and the business environment. “Your focus should not optimizing the operation of your organization — you should be in touch with what’s going on in the marketplace,” said Adamson in an interview in AMA Quarterly.
So you need to cultivate your peripheral vision. “That means retaining the founder’s mentality, staying close to the customers, seeing the customer with fresh, clear eyes and not getting so inside your bubble that you lose a sense of what made your business successful, to begin with,” Adamson said.
2. Create a clear purpose. As the authors explain, Facebook’s purpose is to connect the world; Hertz’s purpose is to make things easier for the business traveler or make more pleasurable for the leisure traveler. “These are very different from getting more Facebook members or renting more cars. When one looks at the objectives of the business as fulfilling a social purpose, it becomes easier to recognize the need and opportunity to shift.” So articulate your purpose and instill it, communicate it and live it.
3. Cultivate credibility to motivate your team. Your personal values and experience are both important assets in persuading team members that change is needed. Adamson and Steckel cite studies that demonstrate the relationship between strong values and the ability to make smart decisions — and to influence others to support those decisions.
Of course, an important component of credibility is to trust those you lead. Joel Steckel is quoted in AMA Quarterly as saying, “Good leaders empower the people who work for them. A good friend of mine who happens to be the dean at the MIT Sloan School gave me his secret. His job is not to please his superiors, but to reward his followers. He takes care of his people, and they take care of him.”
4. Make bold mistakes. “Shifts require bold action. Sooner or later just about every company is going to need to execute a strategic shift. Given that it’s going to happen, you might as well be bold. There may be a natural tendency to play it safe, but if you do, you may become the next Kodak.”
So don’t be afraid to make mistakes — and to encourage people in your organization to do so as well. “Experimentation is the new gold standard. James Quincy, the CEO of Coca-Cola said, ‘If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not trying hard enough.”
5. Never declare victory. The authors quote the iconic hotel leader Bill Marriott: “Success is never final.” Leaders who have helped their organizations shift ahead always take a “never done, tomorrow is a new day and you have to start from square one” attitude. They never grow complacent.
Originally published at https://www.inc.com.