Maintain Your Sanity in Times of Change

By Kevin Warren

It’s no secret that we create opportunities when we do things differently. When you make a change, reinventing yourself, your business, your workout, your outlook, your career, your sales strategy  – whatever it is – is typically a tightrope walk that balances the energizing with the scary.tightrope walker

Let’s face it, we’re not usually big fans of change; we’re almost hardwired to resist it. It’s difficult and threatening , and yet we can’t avoid it, especially in business today, where transformative change is more than a buzzword, it’s a survival skill.

Our company has undergone some seismic shifts during my tenure. I keep my sanity by thinking about the opportunities this kind of shift presents – and remaining focused on how we stay nimble enough to capture them.

While each challenge is unique, there are three key tasks transformative leadership undertakes:

  1. Determine strategic imperatives and the operational drivers that can get you to your goal.

  2. Be clear about where the old mind-set undermines effort and prevents you from moving in new directions.

  3. Be certain that everyone at all levels is vigilant about keeping to the strategy and focusing on the operational drivers.

I firmly believe that reframing changes as opportunities creates an energy that helps drive success. Leadership that challenges that “muscle memory” – doing what we’ve always done – is at the heart of it, but you have to demonstrate reliability to get people to follow. They need to know that the things they know and trust aren’t about to completely fall apart while you’re focused on metamorphosis.

Knowing that we are all walking that transformative path together gives me the confidence to be optimistic. Here are critical checkpoints to consider throughout the course of a dynamic shift:

Focus on the right things. What customers want today is different from what they wanted 75 years ago, and they will want different things in the future. Being in tune with the changing needs and expectations of those we serve is vital to corporate success, and it requires the discipline to stop, listen, and adapt.

Make the change sustainable. Initiating change is one thing, but sustaining it is another. In fact, according to McKinsey, only 30 percent of all change initiatives are successful. So what does one do? Have a vision. Make it relevant. Keep it simple. Execute well.

Communicate early and often. Culture is the biggest make-or-break factor in the mix. You have to be ready for the resistance – the people who’d rather have you wake them when it’s over. The challenge is to help them focus on the opportunities the change offers instead of what they think they may lose in the process. It’s not quick, and it’s not easy, but it’s possible. Make the case for change with a vision that grabs people.

Remember, people are your driving force. Talent is the critical element to carrying out the strategy and structure you’ve so carefully carved out. Take a hard, honest look at your resources and determine who can make the journey, then get the right people in the right roles. Determine the thinking and skill sets people are going to need, and make plans to coach and teach those skills continuously.

Managing change is difficult, but change isn’t going away. We all have to keep pace with it. So wherever you work, whatever your role,  accept the challenge to wrestle muscle memory to the ground and become a change master who creates your organization’s next great leaps.

Kevin Warren XeroxKevin Warren is president of Xerox Strategic Growth Initiatives and a former Sales 2.0  Conference speaker. Join us at any of our upcoming events in Boston, Las Vegas, or San Francisco in 2014. See a full schedule at

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