For most entrepreneurs and small-business leaders, CHANGE is one of the challenging phases in organizational or business growth. Change is necessary for survival and growth, and an entrepreneur should be ready to take it head-on at all times. The primary challenge of change programs is not to transform the processes or infrastructure but to bring about behavioral change in the people who are integral contributors to the growth process.
An entrepreneur or business owner is responsible for initiating and implementing the change initiatives in his/her company. However, it’s not the sweet spot to be in. Because before instilling change in others, it is imperative to demonstrate it in his/her behavior. When the organization’s leadership team struggles to change, the whole organization struggles with them.
By nature, entrepreneurs are change-makers. Entrepreneurship brings societal change by introducing innovative products/services or addressing business and social challenges. The critical distinction is between adapting to change individually and leading a group to adapt to change. This is where special leadership traits make a difference.
There are two aspects to instilling behavioral change in people. The first is overcoming the resistance to change (be it active or passive), and the next is implementing the change initiative within a time frame. Generally, the first aspect is a tough nut to crack.
Change leadership is not natural, even for an entrepreneur, especially when you first start practicing it. Change is often associated with leaving behind something that has worked and pursuing something untested and relatively unknown. This change will always create tension between the stability of the past and the uncertainty of future opportunities. Hence, the resistance to change.
As you prepare to become a change leader and master the change leadership practices, the critical path should include five foundational practices, as explained below.
Continuous and never-ending improvement (CANI) Continually learn, unlearn, and relearn
Research has indicated that businesses change so drastically in today’s VUCA world that you need to relearn 30% to 40% of your current knowledge and concepts every few years. Knowledge changes rapidly and requires constant updating. The Harvard Business Review reported, “The lessons learned in school can become outdated before student loans are paid off.” So, entrepreneurs must replace what they learned yesterday with what they will learn tomorrow. The assumptions and strategies that you had pre-COVID-19 should be evaluated entirely against the “New Normal” and start the process of individual and institutional unlearning and relearning to survive and grow.
Value past learning but focus on today
A key point to remember – All your past successes and victories are significant accomplishments that can be documented on your websites, marketing collateral, or resumes. These accomplishments will not help you to solve any of your current challenges. Baseball star Babe Ruth said, “Yesterday’s home run doesn’t win today’s game.” Focus on current challenges, not past glories. Current challenges and opportunities stand on their own. If you want an outstanding today and a great future, you must do whatever is necessary to solve today’s challenges. Be grateful and acknowledge the past but focus 100% on today.
Rely on speed, but thrive on timing
The critical point to remember is that “Timing” is everything. You need to focus on your environment and recognize the appropriate time to make decisions and execute them. According to folk wisdom, there’s only one good day to eat a pear. Have it a day early or a day late, and you will miss the best taste. Eat your pear on the correct day, and it will be delicious. Timing is everything. As a leader, you need to recognize when to give a pep talk to an employee, when to push an employee to take on additional responsibilities, when to introduce a new product or new strategy for the success of the organization, etc.
Take action and move courageously in the midst of uncertainty
An entrepreneur has a knack for seeing opportunity in the midst of uncertainty. Many great things have begun with a single act of courage throughout history and today. An entrepreneur steps out and makes one courageous decision, and that one domino starts many other dominoes falling. Fear in leadership is usually connected to uncertainty about the future. But uncertainty about the future is never going to go away. Leaders get paid to deal with uncertainty. They must relish it because it comes with the territory. Betty Bender, former Library Administration and Management Association president, explains, “Anything I’ve ever done that ultimately was worthwhile initially scared me to death.” As leaders and entrepreneurs, we must move forward courageously when faced with uncertainty.
Remember, today’s best will not meet tomorrow’s challenges.
As an entrepreneur, you must move forward courageously when faced with uncertainty. You must continuously upgrade your skills to be a Change Leader and lead successfully. In today’s world of radical change, what worked for you in the past might not work for you tomorrow. Spend time planning how to get better. The best way to meet the challenges of tomorrow is to do our best today. Ask yourself, “Is this the best I can do today?” Have an attitude of “positive dissatisfaction,” this is where you reflect and acknowledge your contributions today and move your focus to the next challenge. The question “Am I getting better?” motivates me to learn and change to take on tomorrow’s big challenge.