Collaborative Leadership Blog

Dancing With Change

Robots and androids. Artificial intelligence. Self-driving cars. Technological transformations every 18 months. Futurist Ray Kurweil tells us that the 21st Century will not experience 100 years of progress, but rather 20,000 years. All this and more is our future, the impacts of which are constant, disruptive, and even chaotic change. We’re not talking about mere ups and downs in the business cycle, the ebb and flow of mergers and acquisitions, or the rise and fall of start-ups. We’re talking about the fundamental transformation of how we work, and how we work with each other. How will we meet these challenges?

Certainly not by sticking our head in the sand, or blindly assuming the way we have done business the past 10 years will make us competitive in the next 50. We must transform how we work in a nano-second. And, human beings are the most change-resistant creatures on Earth. We fear change, even sabotage it.

In our work with about 100 companies going through significant change, one conclusion can be drawn: to survive and thrive, you have to learn how to dance with change. This does not mean new visions, training, slogans, or campaigns that implore the workforce to “embrace change”. On the contrary–dancing with change means creating a substantive, grounded, and principled culture and process that enables people to own the change, engage it, and go on the journey with it. Only in this way can you stand at the calm center of the hurricane of change, and navigate its turbulent waters.

Dancing with change means at least these 7 things:

  • Trust: Leadership must trust themselves, their insight, and capabilities to lead; the workforce must trust their leadership; this is difficult, but essential work for establishing a solid foundation for the dance
  • Doing What Matters: The workforce wants to do work that matters; they want to matter; there must be deep respect for this operating principle
  • Awareness of Consequences: Resistance is futile; everyone must understand the risks of standing still; there are no laurels, only disrupters; if you resist, you die as a business
  • Self-Confidence: Go confidently to the dance knowing you have all the attributes, native intelligence, and skills needed to succeed
  • Ownership & Engagement: Only through ownership of the change will we be able to dance with it; this means more than intellect; it means engaging the heart, and changing our behaviors to meet its diverse challenges
  • Commitment: The most committed wins; it’s beyond “needing to” or “trying to” change; it’s a “requirement” to commit to the dance, on a daily basis; it will alter everything we do; invest in innovation and re-invent regularly
  • Collaboration: Only trust-based collaborative relationships can provide the culture needed to adapt and re-adapt

This dance is not for the faint-hearted. It is for the courageous, those who persevere, those who will not bow to the challenges of change, but only bow to their partner.