Uncertainty begets possibility. Are you open to your next opportunity?
The one true constant in life is change, but you already know this. You’ve experienced change first-hand more times than you can count. Yet, if it’s an evitable part of life, why does it cause us so much anxiety?
Neuroscientists say it’s because we have a difficult time coping with the unpredictable. Our brain processes uncertainty the same way it would an error, causing us to be uncomfortable until the uncertainty is resolved. As we all know from experience, this resolution takes time. Change doesn’t abide by our timelines; it never aligns with our expectations. As you can imagine, this doesn’t sit well with most people. Popular entrepreneur and podcaster Tim Ferriss says that “people would rather be unhappy than uncertain.”
Except change doesn’t give you that choice. It’s going to happen whether you’re prepared for it or not. But here’s the problem: embracing change isn’t enough. Leaders must chase change. It’s on their shoulders to drive and manifest change in their organizations, whether that’s at a startup or a Fortune 500 company (change doesn’t discriminate, after all).
You can’t outwit or prevent change, either. Many have tried and many have failed. Consider Sears: the mecca of department stores faced massive store closings and, despite a desperate attempt to save themselves, continues to shrink. Rethink how you view change so you don’t end up like Sears.
Let your “why” drive your goals
Change presents unique opportunities, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to navigate. Its unpredictability is often used as an excuse for leaders to abandon ownership of its consequences. Yet, you do have control. You have trial-and-error.
Greatness is achieved through experimentation, not luck. When you become a CEO, you aren’t entering a lottery; there isn’t someone calling out numbers to determine whether you’ll take home the big bucks. Does it happen? Occasionally — but the odds aren’t in your favor.
I agree with Jeff Bezos when he said, “It’s not an experiment if you know it’s going to work.” Any business strategy requires an open mind. When you hit your goals, the process might not look like what you envisioned. Or, your goals might change along the way. Change may be uncertain, but it’s also calculated, measured, and carefully considered. What you can do is implement change with your larger goals in mind and then tie it back to your “why.”
And you should have a “why.” I put our “why” on our company website so everyone can see where we came from, where we’re going, and how we’ll get there. These goals drive our change and give us control, even if the process is still a bit unpredictable.
Let go of your great expectations
If a CEO’s business is like their child, than ideas are what keep it alive. I get why leaders become overly attached to their ideas and processes, but if you’re stubborn in your approach, your company will never experience transformative change. Famed writer William Faulkner says of his writing process, “You have to learn to kill your darlings.” I believe that applies to ideas, too.
It’s not about what you want, it’s about what’s best for your customers. Your ego should never get in the way of abandoning or reinventing an idea that’s moving your company in the wrong direction. Instead, think ahead: “What do my customers want? What trends will impact the future of our industry?”
There is no place for attachment issues in business.
Grow through what you go through
In our society, we celebrate confident and unwavering leaders. Yet, somewhere along the way, confidence got misconstrued as resisting the influence of others. As if being open to other viewpoints insinuates weakness. Great leaders must be open-minded; they need to question their ideas, welcome different perspectives, and be willing to change their minds when their original ideas don’t hold up to scrutiny.
These leaders can make more accurate predictions, they are more adaptable, and more importantly, they are constantly improving themselves. Leaders are good at identifying the flaws in others, but can rarely identify flaws in themselves. When you’re aware of your shortcomings, you can better understand your development goals. And nothing challenges your leadership ability quite like change. Strong leadership isn’t determined by someone’s performance during moments of success; it’s how you display emotional strength, courage, and professionalismduring stressful times.
Change isn’t a roadblock, it’s an opportunity. Uncertainty begets possibility, and the best leaders know that innovation lies in what is unpredictable at the time. So, pursue and embrace change. It will not only improve your company, it will improve you.