If you've been leading a company or organization for any amount of time at all, you've certainly heard that your organization has to be like the shark that has to 'swim or die.' Your organization must, by this thinking, have to change or die. Meaning that if you keep doing the same things for the same audiences, and you don't keep up with the environment around you (new discoveries, technologies, ideas, new people and ways of thinking) or you don't pay attention to new competitors, and get new customers, chances are you won't last long. This would be what we, in the business, call a "fear motivator." It definitely does NOT bring out the creative, innovative juice in your organization. But how often do you talk to your organization about the need to change?
I've worked with enough people in organizations, leaders and employees alike, to understand that "CHANGE," even for the better, means disruption, which means people get squidgy. Squidgy, here, means an icky feeling in the gut -- an emotional reaction that feels uneasy. Because wanting new and different always sounds like there is something wrong with here and now. Which also feels ... well, squidgy. Putting people back on their heels, feeling like there's something wrong or bad with the work they've done up until today, is also not really going to get those creative juices flowing. It's more likely to put people on the defense, which is that hunkering down vibe you can feel when no one says anything, or even looks up, when you ask "So, what's going on?"
Try this instead. Rather than talking about the need for 'change,' ask your folks to help find where your company can make a shift. We're doing okay now, and we want to do better. Where can we build on a current strength in a new way? How can we apply a capability to a new problem that our customers face? Looking for the right way to shift (Shift right, get it?) assumes that an answer exists, and we're going to find it! This will avoid the squidgies. It will invite your people and their wonderful, fabulous brains to seek the joy ("pleasure motivator") of finding hidden treasure. Doesn't this sound so much better?
Unless your organization or business is facing imminent disaster, and sometimes especially then, letting fear and worry run rampant will shut down the very antidote to your troubles: your people and their prodigious cerebra. Just like the limbic brain sends the "batten down the hatches" message when a fear motivator is present, it will send a "come out and play" message when a pleasure motivator is present.
So lean away from the fear, worry and stress brought on by "change" and lean into the joy, energy and enthusiasm that can be unleashed by making one modest shift of your own. Don't say "change," say "shift right!"
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