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As leaders we like to think we’re brave enough to take on most any challenge. And really, we are, but do we approach change with our blinders on? Sure, we know we’re open to new ideas when we aren’t? I’d guess that if the statistic that only 20% of change initiatives are actually carried out – not make it to fruition, just carried out – then chances are we still suck at change. Why is that? Because it’s hard? Because it’s an unknown? Because our teams just aren’t good at it? Sure. And what do all those things have in common? Our assumptions, our stories, our mindset. We assume change it too hard to handle effectively because it’s an unknown and that our teams can’t be expected to change with grace because they simply aren’t equipped. We have to change our thought patterns around change and help our team do the same so that the mantra in the company goes from “change is hard” to “change is an opportunity”!

So, what’s the secret to creating a growth mindset around change? How did Jack Welch save GE $10 billion by implementing Six Sigma and how did Ohno convince the executive team at Toyota to pursue just-in-time manufacturing to save dollars, space and time? The trick is to see the change as an opportunity for greatness. Yes greatness! You don’t think Coca-Cola said, “We’ll just be ok and Pepsi won’t overtake our market”, do you? Hell no! Same with Toyota, GE, Southwest Airlines, Daymond John. You MUST set out for greatness and be sure your team sees opportunities in the same light. Write it down, every day – “I am/our organization/my team/this product is destined for greatness”. Think about it, obsess; when you’re running, when your grocery shopping, when you’re sitting at your desk. When I run I have created a chant of my goals that matches my breathing and footsteps. Every day, live your opportunities.

Oh wait, there’s that pesky story again. Your excuse right now is what? – my company isn’t destined for greatness, we just make widgets. Wrong! Excuses don’t serve us, they only hinder our ability to succeed. When Greg Foster started Rainbow Play Systems in a garage in Minnesota he set out to revolutionize the way an outdoor playset tickled the imagination of young people everywhere. Of course, he didn’t realize, then, how wildly successful the organization would be. Now, with a tagline of “dedicated to excellence” and selling playsets in over 5 countries around the globe, the Midwest-based manufacturer operates a 1.3 million square foot facility in Brookings, SD. So, don’t you dare, for a minute, sell yourself or your organization short. If you intend to change a perspective or the world with a team of 5, 500 or 5,000 you can do it.

True bravery in leadership means telling a motivational story that you might not even believe or be sure will happen exactly as you hope. We cannot, of course, throw out due diligence in research and feasibility studies but once that work is done the sky is the limit! Sell your idea with passion, encourage the heart. And whether it’s a “simple” change in software or an entire rebranding campaign express the same fervor and desire for greatness.

Here are the takeaways for today:

  1. Do your homework so you are as confident as you can be but don’t give up opportunities for fear.
  2. Employ a growth mindset and help others do the same.
  3. Throw out the word change and start using the word opportunity.
  4. Tie your new opportunities to the organization’s morale; what makes your people tick? Harvest that energy to fuel your initiative.
  5. Strive for greatness!

Your story is your own to create. You can make it an excuse or a tale of wild success. Whether it’s a software implementation, introducing new hires on a team or a complete organizational makeover – make it legendary. Refuse to believe that the way business has been done in the past 30 years is right for today. Be brave enough to explore options your boss won’t. Think so far outside of the box that your first 6 attempts don’t even make sense. Encourage your teams to whiteboard creative solutions when put to task on implementing a new opportunity. DO NOT be afraid of change, it is but an opportunity for greatness!