Change is the only constant. More than just a well-worn adage it turns out it might be the secret to success.
Companies and individuals that maintain long-term success have one thing in common, says leadership consultant Jason Jennings: They reinvent themselves.
“Too often we rely on the adage, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ but those words lead to what I call the ‘law of suckage,’ which means by the time you figure out you suck, you’ve sucked for a very long time,” says Jennings, author of The Reinventors.
Instead, successful people embrace change, which involves more than just innovation. “It’s a top-to-bottom ruthless review with a constant tweaking,” he says. “To remain relevant, there isn’t much time to rest.”
Companies like Apple, Capital One, and Starbucks constantly reinvent themselves, but Jennings says the rules also apply to entrepreneurs and individuals. He offers five characteristics you must have if you are going to challenge yourself to continuous change:
This is when your head marries your heart, and decisions are given an equal amount of input from both, says Jennings.
“Companies with a track record of growth know a strong sense of purpose is tied into doing something they believe is good,” he says. “It’s not what you do but why you do it.”
While researching his book, Jennings spoke to Michael Long, CEO of Arrow Electronics. “All he talked about was growth,” says Jennings. “So I asked him if he was getting heat from his shareholders.”
Long told Jennings that good employees want a raise and a promotion; he focuses on double-digit growth for the benefit of his people. “Having the right people, leads to getting the right customers, and the right customers keep shareholders happy,” Jennings says.
This same rule applies to individuals. “Most of us make decisions based on a better tomorrow for our families,” he says. “When you’re doing it for the right reasons, growth is the easiest thing in the world.”
Acknowledge that what got you where you are today isn’t going to get you where you want to go tomorrow, says Jennings, and let go of mindsets that keep you stuck. For example, let go of yesterday’s breadwinners.
“Borders is a good example of what can happen if you don’t let go,” he says. “They refused to change and held onto what had made them money in the past and it proved fatal.”
You also must let go of ego. “Ego is when you have to be smartest person in the room,” says Jennings. “You must have a truth squad around you because most people tell you what they think you want to hear.”
Finally, let go of conventional wisdom. “I never met a company or individual trying to achieve conventional results, yet they almost always use conventional wisdom,” he says. “Being open to unconventional ideas is when innovation happens.”
Successful people have good impulse control, says Jennings. “Great companies don’t get themselves to the edge of a cliff where they’re forced to bet everything.”
Instead, they make continuous small bets that can be scaled throughout the organization. Starbucks is a good example of a company that makes small bets, says Jennings. It tested concepts such as wine sales, fresh juices, oatmeal, a new logo, and offering free Wi-Fi.
Jennings says truly great leaders don’t see themselves as leaders; they see themselves as stewards. “They understand that they work for four constituents: employees, customers, vendors and suppliers, and shareholders,” he says. “Their goal is to make everything better for all of these members.”
Jennings says this trait often relates to their personal lives. They share knowledge, they’re accessible, and regularly talk to customers. They’re fearless about growth and have a set of guiding principles. And they get tired of superficial trappings such as big houses, private jets, and expensive suits.
“They feel called to make everything better for everyone,” he says. “When you understand why you’re there, you can become a high-performing, innovative leader.”
[Image: Flickr user Kathleen Dagostino]