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Time’s influence on change

Monday Morning Wake-Up

May 26, 2014

Time’s influence on change

When I started Strategies in September 1993, there was no Internet, email or Facebook. We marketed Strategies magazine and our business courses almost entirely by direct mail. It worked then…but that type of marketing doesn’t work in today’s digital marketplace. In fact, after publishing Strategies magazine for fourteen years, I had to come to terms with the fact that the magazine was not part of Strategies future. I made the tough (but right) decision for the December 2007 issue to be our last. Although I miss my magazine, Strategies is a better company today without it because we can focus our resources on our core business of training and coaching.

Yesterday’s success does not assure success today or tomorrow. Yesterday’s success enhances your stature and reputation, but not indefinitely. A company must evolve and change as the reality that surrounds it evolves and changes. There is an inherent danger to holding on to yesterday’s successes for too long. It dials back a company’s sense of urgency to innovate and discover new opportunities. It makes a leader lazy and a company lethargic.

Time not only forces changeit demands change. Time dares you to keep up, and it never accommodates. If you’re comfortable, it will leave you behind. If you fear change and hesitate, it makes the change you fear more urgent and complex. Likewise, if you sync your change efforts to keep pace with time, it will take you and your company to extraordinary places.

Here are some no-compromise strategies to keep pace with time:

  • Your company’s natural rhythm: Every company has a natural rhythm. Some are fast, some are slow, and some are comatose. Aggressive and dynamic companies have a fast rhythm. They view and implement change as a matter of course. Sure, they hit a speed bump every now and then, but they quickly recover and get back up to speed. Companies with slow rhythms crawl from one comfort zone to the next and are highly resistant to even the most basic change initiatives. Comatose companies die a slow death because they can’t change. Leaders set the natural rhythm and pace of a company. What is your company’s natural rhythm, and what are you doing to keep it fast?
  • Gotta have a map: To keep pace with time, you need a map. The map is your vision and strategic plan set to predetermined timelines. The map details the steps, deadlines and progress points to be achieved. The first 12 to 18 months need high levels of detail and clarity. Every six months, the detail and clarity are extended out so that every 12 to 18 are sufficiently mapped. Without a map, it’s easy to find yourself speeding in the wrong direction as you fall out of sync with time. What’s your 12- to 18-month map look like? If you can’t find it, that may explain why your company is far behind where it should and can be.
  • Embrace it first: Change is a strange beast with which too many leaders and companies wrestle. Why? Because change is uncomfortable and forces leaders, teams and companies to stretch. Most importantly, change is about communication, information flow, systems, critical numbers and accountability. As I always say, “Change rocks the boat.” Change cannot occur when the leader is afraid to rock the boat, and change always begins with the leader. Change that begins in the employee ranks is called a “mutiny.” When was the last time you gave change a big hug?
  • Time is the throttle: Everything in business is time based. Your financial reports are a numeric readout of your company’s performance over time. Goals are time based. Scoreboards are time based. Critical numbers and growth indicators are time based. Time most definitely is the throttle that sets the speed and pace of business performance. If performance is not attached to time, the throttle is not engaged and the company free-floats aimlessly. Is your time throttle engaged?
  • Fear is the brake pedal: Fear is debilitating. Fear of change keeps the leader’s foot locked on the brake pedal when it needs to be on the throttle. Fear is a powerful emotion consumed with worst-case scenarios. The best question to keep fear in perspective is, “What’s the worst that could happen?” In most cases, the worst is actually not that bad. In reality, worst-case scenarios almost always happen when fear prevents essential change. Is your foot on the brake pedal or on the throttle?
  • Take a few giant steps: If time has gotten too far ahead of you and your company, how about taking a few giant steps to catch up? What needs to change in your company; what needs a little positive boat rocking? I bet you have a list of high value issues, change initiatives and stuff that you’ve been procrastinating and obsessing over. Maybe it’s getting control of your finances and fixing your cash-flow issues. Maybe it’s that funky culture that needs a shift. Maybe it’s that rebranding effort that’s long overdue. Maybe it’s that toxic employee that needs to go. It’s time to cast off the dock lines and start the voyage to new and exciting places. Take a few giant steps by leaping into action and getting back in sync with time. That’s what no-compromise leaders do.
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