Work is not about being busy. We can all do that. Work is about making a difference.
As Steve Jobs said : “We’re here to put a dent in the universe”. It doesn’t have to be a big dent every day, but wouldn’t it be good to see more impact from your efforts, and to feel like you are more of your real self at work, not just constantly under pressure?
Here’s what I’ve found is a useful way to think about making that happen.
The work of a leader essentially boils down to two things:
- running the business – operating and refining things as they are;
- changing the business – evolving and transforming things for the future.
Changing something while you are running it is messy. People are involved, and they bring excitement, distraction, uncertainty, and tension. If we can deal with those, we manage the tangibles of any change relatively well (the strategy, structure, systems, etc). But we don’t get benefits from the tangible stuff until people work differently. The thing that makes the dent in the universe is not the restructure or the digital strategy. It’s people making new sense of it together and starting to work in new ways. Including you.
That’s the triangular challenge of leading:
- you need to change the business while operating the business
- you need people to change how they operate while delivering results
- you need to change yourself while leading
Psychologists tell us this transition from the old to the new takes effort because we like the speed and confidence that comes from using familiar solutions. Shifting that means pausing slightly, so we can get confused in a useful way:
- releasing our grip on what has made sense so far
- starting to make new sense of what we want instead
- exploring and experimenting to find out how to bring it to life
There’s a simple basis to starting this well. The art and craft of asking smart questions. They get you through the confusion.
“We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion; cherished interpretations must dissolve to make way for what’s new.”
Margaret J. Wheatley