Change & Confidence



"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." - George Bernard Shaw

What do you really believe about change? Do you actually think you're capable of making change in your life or your business? When I ask leaders those questions, virtually all of them say, "Oh yes, we can make change - we just have to want it bad enough and work hard enough", or something like that. Which sounds great, but is really false on a bunch of different levels.

For starters, just wanting to make change, just being dissatisfied enough with the status quo to want to change it, really isn't what makes change happen. Lots of people want things to change and are dissatisfied with the status quo. Very few of them actually do anything about it. 

Working hard enough isn't the key either. I've seen plenty of leaders and organisations who really worked hard - in some cases, for years - only to eventually admit defeat and give up because nothing was changing.

Lastly (and maybe most importantly), I think most people lie when they say they believe they can make change. People say they can do it because it sounds like the thing you're supposed to say, but at their core, when they're truly honest, they don't think it can be done. They don't want to admit it because they'd sound like they have a bad attitude, but the reality is they expect to fail - and they do.

There are a bunch of things that organisations that excel at change do consistently. The one that's jumped out recently is the idea of confidence. We don't actually believe we can make change, and in the end it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. How do you fix that?

The only guaranteed way to gain confidence is to be successful. But how can you be successful if you're not confident? We could make that circular argument for days, but try this. Start small. If your history with change is one of failure, then don't try and remake your entire business in the next 3 days. Start with one small part. And then find one small piece of that. And then make it what you want it to be.

There is a lot lot be said for momentum. Find some low-hanging fruit and get some early wins. If you try something really hard right off the bat, and it doesn't go well, you'll disillusion everyone involved. If you have some successes, pretty soon people start to believe this might work. Give people a reason to believe in change. Once you start rolling, you won't want to stop.


Article reproduced with the kind permission of Matt Heemstra.

Matt is a director of Cain Ellsworth & Co. LLP, USA.

For over fifteen years he has worked with small and mid-sized businesses, helping them to envision their future and then make it happen.

Matt heads up Growth & Profit Solutions (GPS), a division of Cain Ellsworth.