I’m writing this on the Eve of the New Year. My social media feeds are filled with thoughts closing out 2014 and bringing in 2015. Bookstores, sporting goods retailers, and gyms are fully geared up to capitalize on the “new year, new you” frenzy that strikes like clockwork every year. Yet, experience suggests the vast majority of people and companies are preparing for mediocrity.
How? By working very hard at being the same in 2015 as they were in 2014. Every habit, every process, every procedure in your life and in your organization is perfectly designed to support who you are and how you operate right now. If those don’t change, results won’t either.
It’s impossible for an organization to improve without individuals improving first. (Oddly, there is no shortage of business leaders who don’t believe that. They think you can magically change business performance without changing the people creating that performance. Nope.) And improving individuals means the dreaded “C-word” (no, not that one, or that one either). I’m talking about change. No one can do better than they are currently doing without changing their skills, knowledge, decisions, or actions.
I suspect most people get the need for change and improving – few would argue they know everything there is to know about their field or that it’s a 1983 vintage skillset propelling them to outrageous fortune. But there’s a wickedly double edge sword keeping us from changing when we most need to: one side is the razor edge of success; the other is the serrated edge of fear.
It’s been said that nothing fails like success. It’s all too easy to get complacent, especially when things are going our way. Easy to think we’ve got it figured out, dialed in. Easy to believe the decisions and actions that brought success in the past will automatically equal success in the future. Easy to ignore just how fast circumstances and the world are evolving. So we stay stuck in that pinnacle in the past, as the world moves on.
But then, nothing fails quite like failure either. Fear can strike in the maelstrom of change and the more we feel out of control, the more afraid we are of doing the wrong thing, the more we cling to old ways and habits – even when they clearly aren’t creating the results we want. True for individuals, true for companies.
A successful entrepreneur once told me, “Five years ago, my company was doing great, but if we were still operating the way we were then, we’d be out of business. Today, we’re doing great, but if we’re still operating five years from now the way we are today, we’ll be out of business.” Those words changed how I thought about things.
Results don’t change until people change. So, what are you and your company doing to communicate, promote, support, enhance, elevate, strengthen, reinforce, or reward that change? Is individual improvement a priority, a necessary evil, an afterthought, or a nonstarter? Are your people continually improving, stagnating, or falling behind (put another way: is your company continually improving, stagnating, or falling behind)? Is there a clearly understood line between individual performance and company performance? Is there a plan (and action!) to develop or hire the skills necessary for the company to improve?
Or will 2015 look a lot like 2014, which looked a lot like 2013, which…