Commentary

The Art of Making Change

If your business is doing things the way its always done them, youre not just standing still; youre moving backward.

By BY BILL STAINTON March 22, 2016

CEOadviser_April_SBM

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Seattle Magazine.

If you keep doing what youve always been doing, youll keep getting what youve always gotten.

Im sure youve heard some version of this saying. Youve read it in a dozen books; youve heard it in a dozen motivational speeches. (If that last part is true, congratulations on surviving a dozen motivational speeches.)

If you keep doing what youve always been doing, youll keep getting what youve always gotten.

I respectfully disagree. Actually, I vehemently disagree. Because the news is even worse.

If you keep doing what youve always been doing, you will not keep getting what youve always gotten. Youll get less and less than youve always gotten, until one day, you wake up and youre out of business.

Heres why. If you keep doing what youve always been doing, youll keep getting what youve always gotten is really just another way of saying, If youre not moving forward, youre standing still. But thats not exactly true, either, because it fails to take into account the fact that the rest of the world (including your competition) is moving forward. So if youre not moving forward as well and preferably at a faster rate than the competition youre actually moving backward with respect to everyone else.

Thus, if you keep doing what youve always been doing (that is, if youre not moving forward), your competition will eventually pass you. Itll invent a hot new product, introduce a hot new service, initiate a hot new marketing campaign. And it will pass you. What happens next? Your customers hear about the new product, the new service, the new campaign, and they start to migrate. And, bit by bit, your business starts to die.

So lets rewrite the adage. Lets change it to: If you keep doing what youve always been doing, youll die.

A little harsh? Well, so is business. Leadership is for big boys and big girls. Leadership is for people who arent just OK with change, growth and evolution. They actually welcome and embrace all three. Real leaders know that continuous change, growth and evolution are vital to the very existence of their organizations.

Back when I was the executive producer of Almost Live!, I booked a fresh, young comedian named Ellen DeGeneres to be on the show. It was only her second TV appearance and she hit it out of the park. Ellen quickly became one of the hottest comedians in the country. She could have stayed there. She could have coasted. But Ellen knew that if she kept doing what shed always been doing, shed die (figuratively speaking). So she moved forward. She starred in a groundbreaking sitcom and then went on to host her incredibly successful talk show. At this point, for all intents and purposes, she has no competition.

One of my keynote leadership programs focuses on the success of the Beatles. They started out as moptops who sang, Yeah, yeah, yeah! They could have stayed there. They could have coasted. And if they had, wed remember them the way we remember Hermans Hermits. But the Beatles refused to keep doing what theyd always been doing. They moved on to Sgt. Pepper and the White Album and Abbey Road. And the Beatles, for all intents and purposes, have no competition.

If you keep doing what youve always been doing, youll die. Bottom line: The message youve got to keep moving forward is valid. The stakes are just a lot higher than you may have thought.

Leadership consultant Bill Stainton works with people who want to produce breakthrough results with their teams. Reach him at [email protected].

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