Leading through change.
Posted on March 31, 2016
The other day when I paid for my coffee, my barista and I had a short conversation that reminded me of leadership. Her statement was “here is your change” and I said “you can keep the change. I do not like change.”
Now the statement was not meant as a leadership statement, but it made me think about how almost everyone that I know detest change. While nothing remains the same, the status quo brings comfort and familiarity which naturally causes us to fight change. It is like we have a natural tendency to say “you can keep the change, I am fine the way we are doing it right now.
Recently I found myself thinking about the 102 English Separatists and the roughly 30 crew members that boarded the Mayflower in August of 1620. Those brave souls decided that a change was needed, and they were willing to take the risk necessary for that change to happen.
The interesting thing about this particular piece of history is that the brave souls understood that the status quo would not do anymore. They set out for a new life in America. This new life would be tough; they would have to start from scratch, and there was a very high probability that they would fail.
Imagine for a moment that you were on that ship. Imagine that your excitement for the new world is causing your adrenalin to increase, you are saying goodbye to your family members and friends, and you dream of the great new land of prosperity that would be coming your way. The ship slowly leaves the dock, and the wind fills the sails, and then the shore slowly disappears. Still the adrenalin is higher than usual but diminishing.
And then, the trip becomes miserable. Waves are constantly crashing against the ship’s deck until the ship begins to break apart. There are shortages of food and significant delays. Next, women and children are needed to help in the repairs just to keep the voyage going.
We could go on to discuss the details of the trip, however, my purpose is just to think about the beginning of the journey.
I would like to focus on what caused those Separatists to take such risks just for the sake of change. It is my belief that what caused them to leave the status quo behind is the promise of a better future, not only for themselves but also for their descendants. I wonder how many would have changed their minds if they would have been told that more than half of them would perish before getting off of the ship. When does the risk become so great that we choose not to chance it? Or, when does the vision of the future become so great that we are determined to chance it?
As leaders, we will always be faced with our team’s natural tendency to say “keep your change.” Our task is to share our vision so clearly and so passionately that our team is willing to take the risk and get on board. The journey for change will be long; it will include storms that will require everyone to work together doing jobs that we might not be trained for, however, the reward will be so great that it will be worth it.
Many leaders complain that it is hard to lead through change. I disagree, it is hard and requires work, but the problem is that the team can’t see the shore. They begin to think that it was better back the old way. Leaders that lead through change must continue to share the vision of the new world.
One final note, it is said that on October 10th, 1492, Christopher Columbus avoided a mutiny by telling his crew that if land were not sighted within two days, they would reverse course and return home. Land was sighted on October 11th.
This week’s experiment is to keep your team focused on the vision of the future. Change is necessary if you are in any team or organization. Be a leader and lead through it.