Process. Routine. Habit. Status quo. When a true leader hears the words, “We’ve always done it this way,” his or her fingers start to itch.
The questions come fast and furious:
“Why have we always done it this way?”
“What’s working in our process – and what’s not?”
“How can we do it better?”
Great leaders consistently seek out new and innovative ways to accomplish work. They push the envelope in their undying quest for continuous improvement, living by the adage, “If it’s not broke, break it!”
Is this an extreme position? Yes, it is. In a world where people habitually resist change, true leaders seek change out and welcome it. They affirm that no matter how poorly a system is working now, it can be turned around to become a streamlined, profit-making machine. And, they recognize that no matter how well a system is functioning, it can always be made better, leaner, faster and more profitable.
Here are three ways great leaders effect real change:
• Make adjustments gradually, when appropriate. You can change a car’s direction by spinning the wheel in a violent 180-degree turn, or you can take your time and swing around in a gradual circle. Gradual changes are usually easier on people, simpler to put into action, and more effective in the long-run.
• Create small wins. If entire processes, practices, or organizational structures need to be overhauled, be sure to create small wins along the way to encourage employee motivation, keep people on target, and provide a sense of accomplishment.
• Learn through mistakes. Remember that not every idea, plan, or change initiative will be successful. Mistakes will be made. Failures will happen. When that is the case, view mistakes as opportunities for learning and not as reasons for blaming or bludgeoning people. The question is not “Who screwed up?” but “What can we learn?” In this atmosphere, mistakes and failures become the keys to success, because people at every level of the organization are confident that they can seek for improvements without putting themselves in personal jeopardy – even if their efforts are not successful.
As a leader, never settle for the status quo. Never hesitate to break new ground. The best is just a little beyond where you are now. You can get there – it just takes the courage to challenge, and to change.