There is no doubt that a major crisis is often the prompt for fundamental change of some sort, whether that be in our personal lives, in organisations, or globally.
What I wonder is if that is the most effective way to be prompted to make a change.
Britain suspends the debt repayments for the countries hit by the tsunami for ten years – if we had suspended the repayments five years ago, would those countries have been able to deal with the disaster better?
A person is told they have a life-threatening illness and changes the way they live their life – would they have even had the illness if they had been prompted to change their lifestyle earlier?
A business makes a loss and can make no payments to its shareholders, so changes its structure to become more efficient, cutting staff in the process – if those staff had been motivated to become more productive, would the business have made a loss?
As leaders, we are often in the position of responding to some form of crisis at work: a supplier lets us down, key staff are off sick, a customer is threatening to withdraw their custom. Many leaders say that they do not have time for forward thinking, because they are too busy firefighting.
Yet what could we achieve if we concentrated on the possibilities rather than the contingencies?
As a leader you have the opportunity to make a significant difference to how we approach change.
- You can look forward and try out ways of improving what you already have, so that it becomes more robust and able to ride the crisis.
- You can inspire your people to give of their best at work, so that there is less need for fire-fighting
- You can aim to have the best possible service rather than one which is generally good enough, so that customers want to stay with you.
In our personal lives, we achieve most of our change and growth gradually, driven not by crisis, but by a desire to make things even better. If we applied the same principle at work, perhaps change would become an automatic gradual part of our work lives as well and there would be less crisis.