The Middle Of The Road: Safe But Often Sorry
One of my favorite songs is Neil Young’s “Heart Of Gold”. It’s a lovely song and the acoustic guitar plays a melody that will stick with you for a lifetime. A few years after the song came out Neil released a retrospective album and noted that critics and fans kept asking him for more songs like “Heart Of Gold”. He resisted the direction to steer his career toward the middle of the road and said he’d rather head for the ditch because the view was more interesting from there. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how often in business we head for the Middle Of The Road and take the safe route. The typical leader continues to stay in their comfort zone and do the very same things that we’ve done before, thinking that those are the behaviors that got us here. Fair enough. But isn’t the more important thing to figure out what we’ll need to do differently to get us to that place that we’ve not yet gotten to?
Start A Revolution
Playing it safe will get you more of what you’ve always achieved. It’s predictable. It’s safe. It’s likely to lead to more of the same. If you want to shake things up in your company, if you want to stir up your team to enjoy a breakthrough, you’re going to need to step away from your comfort zone and do something revolutionary. You’ve got to master the ability to innovate, create, and change. Change the strategy. Change the tactics. Change the expectations. Change whatever you need to so that you won’t be enveloped by the cloak of inertia. Don’t let your love of success and your love of safety convince you that you should rest on your laurels. Challenge yourself to become a master of change. Challenge yourself to become a master of leading others to a game-changing level of change.
Sometimes A Sneak Attack Is Just The Thing
I’ve learned that sometimes announcing that we’re going to change is the worst thing you can do. It will occasionally elicit more resistance to change than you could imagine and possibly more than you could conceivably overcome. Instead of pinning a target to your jumper, why not just start making the change without talking about it? Leaders get things to change by leading. Set an example. Start doing things differently. Do it yourself and challenge the team around you to do likewise. After you’ve noticed that they are starting to follow your lead, then you can begin to talk about the change that needs to be made and how the team is going to make it happen. Sometimes just doing it first, is far better than signaling a change and inviting resistance. This approach works especially well at entrenched companies who have a long track record of success but have not become change leaders yet.
Have A Plan To Overwhelm The Resistance
Leaders always anticipate resistance and adversity. Develop your plan for how you will obliterate and overwhelm the resistance before it arrives. When the resistance rears its ugly head, avoid the temptation to become frustrated or angry. Instead, welcome it and give it a nice friendly reception. With your plan in your back pocket, you can begin to rationally influence your followers with all of the reasons why the change is going to lead to your team (or your organization) extending over your competitors and creating the conditions for a lengthy dynasty. This is only if you have the courage to change and to keep changing. At the first sign of resistance, overwhelm it with a barrage of good leadership and inspiration that will encourage everyone to emotionally commit to the cause.
So, are you picking up what I’m laying down here? Neil Young could have stayed in his comfort zone and recorded a dozen albums like Harvest and a dozen songs like “Heart of Gold”. That would have been safe and it would have been OK. But, if he’d done that, we never would have had gems like “Like A Hurricane”, “My My Hey Hey”, and “Cinnamon Girl”. I continue to love “Heart Of Gold” but I appreciate that Neil was willing to go against the grain and experiment over the years, in the interest of keeping things interestingly creative. For my money, in business, that is the only thing that keeps our organization relevant in a world of constant change. What are your thoughts? Do you like the smooth ride down the Middle Of The Road, or like Neil and I, do you feel like things get interesting when we go off-road? I’d love to hear your thoughts….
Michael is the founder of a business advisory firm with offices in Minnesota and Arizona. Michael’s team of coaches work with Business Owners, CEOs, C-Level Executives, Leadership Teams and Emerging Leaders all over the United States. Michael Beach Coaching & Consulting is an award-winning firm with a passion to help Leaders to take their Leadership to Level 5. If you have the hankering to develop a dynasty in your organization, send an email to Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org and Michael will reward you with a free Leadership Development toolkit. There’s no cost, no obligation, and nothing to sign up for.