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Lisa Earle McLeod: Change is the key to a successful organization

The team was concerned. They were making an organizational change. At the same time, they were under pressure to move into new markets. People were anxious. They believed the internal conditions weren’t stable enough to pursue new opportunities externally.

They were wrong.

My father once told me, “If you look at really successful people, they always have some backstage level of chaos in their lives.”

Successful people don’t wait for every element of their lives to be perfect before they act. They accept the fact that in successful endeavors, change and uncertainty are constant.

I work with senior leaders who bring me in because they want to accelerate revenue and market growth. I can gauge how successful our initiatives will be by their team’s response to change. I often start with the question: “Would you rather work for an organization that keeps changing or one that doesn’t change?”

There were once many horse and buggy manufacturers staffed with people who loved the stability of their business.

Successful organizations are able to change rapidly because they have a clear North Star. In the most successful organizations their true and noble purpose is to improve the lives of their customers. Their people flex and change rapidly because their constancy of purpose keeps them grounded.

Less successful organizations lack a clear purpose, and because of that, they become overly attached to their current business model. For less successful leaders and organizations, change feel likes a threat to their way of life. Case in point, Blockbuster was overly attached to making money off their retail stores. This blinded them to changes in the way customers consumed content. If they had been focused on their customers, and used them as their North Star, they would have seen what was coming, and perhaps been able to change their model. As it happened, their desire to keep the conditions of their business constant costs them their entire company.

As humans, we all need some level of consistency in our lives. The key is to understand the difference between consistency of conditions and constancy of purpose. When constancy of purpose is your North Star, you can flex and change your conditions. In the absence of a purpose, people will cling to consistency of conditions.

The same principle applies to our personal lives. I see parents whose homes and behaviors remain frozen in time. They act as though their children are still in grade school when in reality their children are on the verge of becoming adults.

If you loved it when your kids were little, as I did, it’s hard to acknowledge that time is over. But if your true and noble purpose as a parent is to nurture and raise successful happy adults, you’re more able to change your home and your behavior as the current situation merits.

In parenting, when your end game is happy successful adults, change is exciting. In business, when your North Star is your customer, change is an opportunity.

If you wait for the pace of change to slow down before you act, you’ll never get anything done. Instability is not a bad thing; it’s a sign of progress. People who cringe at changing conditions are the people who quickly find themselves becoming irrelevant.

Next time you find yourself feeling uncomfortable, remind yourself, your purpose isn’t to stay the same. Your purpose is to keep growing in new situations.

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