Often, change feels sudden even though it’s been happening gradually right under our noses. Take the results of the past few election cycles, for example. Many people were blindsided in 2018 by what seemed to be a shake-up in Congress when 117 female legislators went to Washington.
Was it a record-breaking year for women in government? Absolutely. But it was less a changing of the guard than a mirror reflecting society’s changes over the past few decades. Women haven’t suddenly become strong and powerful; they’ve been exercising their unique skill sets for a long time. In reality, women business owners pump an estimated $1.4 trillion into the economy — not exactly small potatoes.
The rise of women in politics might seem abrupt, but it makes sense based on our societal makeup. Women have spoken up on the issues of the day and controlled household purchasing habits for decades. Their contributions are more apparent now because their faces are splashed on the news. Although that might alarm those who cling to the status quo, savvy CEOs everywhere are using the experience as a reminder that change is coming whether we like it or not — we might as well welcome it into the fold.
A Reluctance to Accept the Inevitable
Of course, we’ve all known corporate leaders who prefer the road more traveled. In their minds, it’s easier to drive on the paved path than blaze a new trail. Besides, change can be hard. It requires research and thoughtfulness, and success is not guaranteed. That’s a hard pill to swallow for individuals who are even moderately risk-averse.
Another big issue with embracing change is that it points out flaws and disrupts accepted courses of action. People don’t like to be told they’re wrong. Consequently, they argue back with the familiar phrase: “It’s always worked!” They might even be right. But as the world changes, companies need to lead the way or get trampled. Even legacy brands need to find the balance between giving existing customers what they love and wooing up-and-coming buyers by speaking their evolving language.
Despite these scary elements of change, it has some magnificent upside. The simple act of talking about change offers opportunities to strengthen an organization. A series of respectful, open-minded brainstorming sessions can bring about higher levels of collaboration and understanding.
Even if proposed changes never take root, everyone leaves the meetings with different perspectives — a terrific outcome in an era with diverse consumer needs. Remember, too, that change can sometimes be the springboard to relaunch an initiative that might not have worked in the past.
Need a few pointers to spark change within your business? Try these strategies to help you avoid the crushing feeling that comes when you realize you’re in danger of going the way of the dinosaurs:
- Outsource to generate fresh viewpoints.
Sometimes, the best way to elicit new points of view is to outsource responsibilities to contingent workers who have a wealth of experience working in many industries. Not only does this save money by hiring freelancers instead of costly full-time employees but it also enables workers to finish small and large projects quickly and accurately.
At the same time, freelancers (if asked) will naturally help you see areas of improvement or places to pivot thanks to their years of expertise. Listen to what your strongest outsourced workers say; their recommendations could be the seeds your company needs to grow.
- Embrace the role of a lifelong learner.
Engage your curiosity by attending conferences, taking classes, and participating in online discussions that challenge your beliefs or broaden your horizons. Even though you’re incredibly busy, you must make time to get a handle on the direction the world is moving. Merely listening to podcasts or audiobooks during your commute or workout can prevent you from falling behind and becoming stale.
As you make interesting discoveries on wide-ranging subjects, share them with your team members. Encourage those under you — especially members of incoming Generation Z — to do likewise. This will help change become the fabric of your culture rather than something to be feared.
- Fill openings with candidates from external companies and fields.
Promoting from within may be your preference when hiring, but it’s a good idea to at least occasionally seek outside applicants. Like freelancers, your external hires will bring different perspectives when they become part of your company’s fabric.
Even if they don’t revolutionize your workplace, small changes can lead to lasting impact. Another advantage of onboarding external candidates? They are unlikely to be involved in your company’s political sphere. This automatically makes them less jaded and inflexible.
Change is not inherently good, but it’s also not bad. It’s just something that’s happening on micro and macro levels all the time. Spend time understanding the changes occurring around you, working to find ways to apply them to your world. It might be nerve-wracking, but even baby steps toward the path less traveled can lead to genuine change down the road.
Written by: Alison Gutterman.
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