If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, good things are about to happen. Pain is a prerequisite to cultural change, getting healthy, or improving almost any result. Last week I was in Colorado Springs for the annual PDP Global conference. Three years ago at my first conference, I wanted to see the local sights and go for a hike. My associates referred me to the Manitou Incline, the “Holy Grail” of cardio experiences. The hike is one mile straight up the mountain. You will experience almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain. At 6’7” and 282 pounds, this was a tough trail. Last year I hiked the incline and it was painful. I decided to change and get in shape. The pain caused me to lose twelve pounds and improve my stamina. I improved my time to the top this year by 15 minutes and I felt much better. Just 18 more pounds to go.
I regularly talk to business executives who seek relief from challenges and pain they are experiencing including reduced profit, financial losses, high turnover, weak succession and bench strength, or missed goals and opportunities. They want our help with an employee, a boss, a team or an entire company. When they ask for help, I want to know if they are serious about change. Organizational change must be supported and lead from the top to succeed. If the pain is not great enough, there is often little incentive to change.
Throughout a company, there may be various levels of pain. One organization I recently met with has been having problems for years. The senior partners have been ignoring the problems and doing business as usual until recently. They are losing some of their best talent to the competition. The behavior of some the senior executives is causing new recruits to leave. The pain of departing recruits is magnified when they persuade other potential recruits they will be unhappy if they work here. Worse, they talk to current employees and entice them to leave. The problems where originally ignored as senior executives justified their behavior by convincing themselves the problems belonged to those who left.
The next levels of shareholders are clear about the problems and have been sounding the alarms for as many years. Their warnings have fallen on deaf ears until now. The pain is finally great enough for changes to begin. These senior executives have to support any change initiatives. Half measures will only prolong the pain and misery. When top leadership sit in their ivory towers and refuse to listen they allow pain to persist with their teams. Some shortsighted executives only change when they can no longer be insulated from pain.
Avoid or reduce organizational pain:
Listen to your team: They are your “canary in a coal mine.”
Take time to actively seek feedback from your direct reports.
Conduct regular employee and customer feedback surveys.
Develop a culture that is not satisfied with the status quo and strives for more.
Seek outside perspectives from industry experts, books, curricula, competitors, consultants, board members, etc.
Pain is healthy. It let’s us know something is wrong which can lead to necessary changes. Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Or do you need to be sick and tired a little longer?
Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC