It’s time to stretch and fly high

I often talk about company culture shifts. If you strip away all the business jargon, culture shifts are nothing more than an upgrading of a company’s behaviors. It’s quite natural for behaviors to settle in after an upgrade. And that’s exactly the problem with culture shifts. As the leader, you inspire, train, mentor and push your team up to that coveted next level. Getting there is the goal – that’s what everyone is focused on. As new behaviors become the norm, the culture shift winds down. The goal has now become the accomplishment. But then what? It starts all over again because maintaining status quo leaves your company vulnerable to competitors that are aggressively pushing forward.

So let’s change the scenario and bring this conversation to the face you see in the mirror. Consider the times in your life when you acknowledged that your personal behaviors needed an upgrade. Chances are you had feelings of being unchallenged, stuck, frustrated, ineffective or just plain bored. You decide it’s time for your very own culture shift – that it’s time to stretch and push yourself to reach what you know is your full potential.

Personal culture shifts ramp up over time until “bam” – enough is enough and you start plotting a new course for yourself. Call it an awakening, an epiphany or just you kicking your own butt – you finally lift your attention out of the daily quagmire of stuff you deal with every day and find yourself invigorated by new possibilities and opportunities. What you’re actually experiencing are the first stages of stretching your mind and imagination – you’re getting your blood flowing to areas of thinking and behavior that fell dormant.

Do I have your attention? Are you looking at the face in the mirror? Do you feel like stretching? I bet you do, and that’s awesome. However, there is a simple danger to stretching and having that transformational “bam” go off in your head. Your initial attempts at stretching and shifting to new behaviors will instantly be under attack by your current and deeply embedded behaviors and situation. Simply put, that empowering “bam” can go “poof” in a blink. The key is to shift smoothly from the initial lift of stretching into a personal commitment, and then, total engagement. Hey, I stretch before riding my bike 30+ miles. The stretching just loosens me up, preparing me for a long ride. The gain is in the commitment to engage – and doing it.

As a business trainer, consultant and coach, it is a joy to see leaders experience the “bam” when they realize that, most often, it is their own behaviors that were the root cause of their frustrations and feeling stuck. It’s an even bigger epiphany when leaders realize that THEY need to change first, in order for their company to change its behaviors and shift its culture. But just like diets and workout programs that begin with vigor, most sputter and die in a matter of days or weeks.

It’s interesting how often we receive calls from leaders seeking coaching and training just after experiencing their “bam” moment and decision to stretch. After receiving insight into their issues and goals, we offer an overview of the work to be done. It’s not unusual to hear a leader say, “We worked with coaches before and nothing changed.” That statement gets my neck hairs on end because the one constant in all the failed efforts was the leader who complained he didn’t get his money’s worth. In such cases, it’s the leader that wants big changes in the company’s behavior to occur – but could not and would not change their behaviors. They want everything and everyone else to change but them.

The lesson here is that we as leaders must keep challenging ourselves to get better first, before we place that mandate on the backs of our employees. We not only need to keep stretching, we need to back that up with commitment and engagement. It’s that simple and that complicated.

UPDATE: I wrote this Monday Morning Wake-Up on November 5th while on a flight from New York’s JFK to Paris where I’m the keynote speaker for the OMC World Congress. I’ll be speaking to 300 representatives from more than 60 OMC member countries.

Follow my Paris exploits in words and pictures on the Strategies’ Facebook page

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click the Comment button above.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


1 Response to “It’s time to stretch and fly high”

  1. November 15, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Neil: This was spot-on, thanks! I can relat to your mention of the person who wanted everything/everyone to change but couldn’t understand that they needed, as you say. to look in the mirror! Powerful stuff, please keep it coming! -Robin

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