In a previous article on the blog, we looked into the three secrets to creating lasting change. This was a high-level overview to introduce you to each of our three secrets.
This new series of articles will explore each of them in more detail. Before we take a deep dive into the first one, let us remind you of our three secrets:
The answers to each of these secrets are the key ingredients to creating change that lasts.
In this article, we will go deeper with a more detailed look into the third secret to help you be effective as a change leader.
The third secret is essentially this:
Changing your focus in ONE KEY AREA will radically increase efficiency and collaboration in your teams.
When we look at organizations, people often talk about giving teams the right to make mistakes. But when you do that, you are not changing your company's culture. You are living inside your existing culture of black and white, failure and success.
Instead, focus on what you learned. If it works out: What did you learn from that? If it does not work out: What did you learn from that?
This does not mean that you want people to throw spaghetti against the wall and hope that it sticks. People get that impression sometimes, but it is not about just allowing things to happen.
Start changing your mindset with your teams to emphasize learning and experimentation, instead of success and failure.
You need to let go of the notion that everything is going to work the first time around. When you think about it, what happens more often than not is that people try to be perfect.
They try to get everything right the first time.
Because if you do not, it is a waste of money and a waste of time. This is a common belief in the business world.
Let's take the example of the best hitters in baseball. Every time they step up to the plate, one out of three times, they get on base. Two times out of three, they go back to the dugout with their bat on their shoulder. So they are unsuccessful 60% of the time or more. And they are paid heftily for this too!
So as employees, why do we expect to be perfect? Why do we need to hit it out of the park every single time we step to the plate? This just adds pressure that does not necessarily need to be there. Changing includes being willing to let things go a little bit off track for a while.
If you always focus on what you are trying to learn by doing something, you are always going to get something out of it.
Here is an example with my own team. Once, we were late in organizing an event. A couple of weeks before the start, we had not sent anything out. We did not expect anyone to sign up at that point. But we went ahead with the organizing. Why?
Our thought process was that by the time we were done, we would know every single thing we needed to do to organize this event. We would have the templates, the ideas, and we would know how to work. So it was not a waste of time, because the next event was much easier to put together.
In this case, we were actually going to fail and we knew it upfront, but we still did it. But sometimes you do not know. And other times you need to just go ahead and start experimenting.
But three things need to always be clear to you:
By continuously focusing on what you are learning, you will always be moving forward no matter what.
Based on what you learn, the next question you should ask is: What's next? Do you need to change the experiment or leave it as is? Is it working out? You can tweak it along the way to reach your goal.
What is crucial is to regularly review your experiments. Circle back with your team regularly and discuss the outcomes. You will probably need to help your team to learn how to have these conversations.
Keep the conversation alive with them. Because often, we live in the paradigm of right or wrong, black or white and we forget that there are shades of gray in between.
If you start creating a learning organization, you do not need to worry about making mistakes. You do not need to worry if something is a success or if it failed.
It becomes about the progress that you made and what you are going to be doing differently next time.
When people try to effect change, what we often hear in organizations is this: "Oh, we are not going fast enough!"
When we ask what they mean, no one can give a concrete answer. Because what is fast enough? The truth is, it is never fast enough. You need to let go of that belief and accept that you are where you need to be at this moment in time.
Creating a learning culture is about playing the proverbial long game. You are not looking to create perfection, you are looking at generating measurable and visible progress.
Maybe you are not comfortable doing this right now. Maybe you need certainty before you move forward. The problem is that you are training your team to have the perfect solution before starting anything.
Experiment with trying things out without knowing the final answer up front. Experiment with taking a first step in the direction you want to go and seeing what happens.
You may find it uncomfortable and awkward at first but you will get the hang of it pretty quickly. Once you get more comfortable, you will be in a better position to help your team do this as well.
The third secret is all about focusing on learning and experimentation, instead of emphasizing success and failure.
All of this may be daunting at first, but it makes change much easier because you are not trying to be perfect all the time. You are thinking about the long run and making progress gradually.
If you develop this learning mindset and if you help your team develop it, you can do anything. Your teams will be much more collaborative and engaged.
When you put all three secrets together, you will find that a lot of it will require you to be very intentional and self-aware as a leader.
Working on your leadership in this way is also what will help you create sustainable and lasting change in your organization.
What are your expectations when it comes to transformation? How could you shift your mindset to sustain change?