Without a Transformative Vision, don’t expect change to happen

I had one new years resolution this year, that I believed (and still believe) will revolutionise my life. It was simple: “Go to bed earlier”

My logic was sound. If I go to bed earlier, I’ll find it easier to wake up earlier in the morning when I do my best work, when the wife and kids are still asleep. I’ll use the time to read, exercise and prepare my mind for the day ahead. It was a simple resolution, just one thing: Go to bed earlier.

Has it worked? No!!

So why not? Why can’t I, a person that understands change well and helps large organisations to change, not make this happen? The answer is simple, and it’s the same reason change is so hard for companies in the workplace.

People are resistant. We are naturally creatures of habit. Our subconscious mind tells us everything is okay when it’s not. So we don’t change.

People Are the Problem! We Are the Problem!

Take this into business. You might be rolling out some new IT software, a new digital initiative, a new IT strategy or even pivoting the business to become a tech company. That is a hell of a lot harder than my challenge of waking up in the morning. Now you have tens/ hundreds/thousands of staff that need to change their daily habits. Changing habits is a self-help industry on it’s own, but at the core of changing habits successfully lies one thing:

Understanding the Opportunity

The opportunity to be more productive. The opportunity to be healthier. The opportunity to grow the business.  The opportunity to save time, etc, etc.

Top athletes don’t just say they need to train harder for the opportunity to win at the Olympics, they actually close their eyes and picture themselves on the podium, picking up gold. They can see it, smell it, feel it. It resonates with them beyond the logical.

Let me give you another example, closer to home. A few years back we pivoted our company away from the marketing industry, in which we felt we had become a commodity. It was a massive change for us. We had a team of people that joined us to be digital marketers and we were telling them they needed to become something different. We started by explaining why the change was needed, in a way that spoke to their hearts as much as to the logic of what was going on in our industry. But most importantly we created a picture of a better place; better types of work (work that made a real difference for our clients), better clients and a better environment. We were also honest; we said it was going to be hard and that we didn’t have all the answers at that time.

The outcome? We managed to get buy-in for a vision that many staff realised could ultimately mean losing their jobs. But a co-created transformational vision meant that they wanted to stick around for the ride and take the opportunity to learn and grow as we adventured together to a different future. We celebrated the small wins and continued to communicate to staff, but at the core was a vision of a new opportunity that spoke to the heart rather than the minds of our team.

So whether you follow Kotters 8 steps for leading change, McKinsey’s 7-S model, Lewins change management model, or the numerous one’s out there, none of them work unless you can optimistically position a picture of what the change might look like.

So your one action?

You need a great goal, a big vision, something to believe in. People want to be part of something. They want to believe that the actions they take are going to make a difference and create something better. So give them something to believe in. If you don’t do it? Don’t expect any results from the change you are trying to make.

So what do I need to do to get to bed earlier? I need to create a big vision picture of what I can become if I can wake up earlier. Not just from a logical perspective (that already hasn’t worked), but with something that speaks to my heart. I’ll let you know when I’ve got it.

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