Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Do you need to loosen your grip

We are in the process of selling our home.

It has been our home for 10 years; where Lewis and I began our lives together. It is where we brought our little Leila home after our tedious and long journey to Russia. It is where she learned to walk as she scampered from window to window watching Lewis come home. It is also where we had innumerable get-togethers with aging parents and dear friends. And finally, it is where I poured my love of beauty as I shaped and massaged its walls and floors to showcase art, furniture and worldly treasures.

And so, even as we move just 5 short blocks down the street, dealing with impending change can either root you to the same spot, keeping you stuck, or send you into an emotional tailspin of fear and anxiety.

I have been on both sides of that coin. Sometimes even on the same day.

This journey to take that final step of severing ties with this wonderful home has reminded me of how it felt after 15 years of service when I left my former employer to venture out on my own. It is clear that all too often our grips are tight. Sometimes too tight. Whether it be on a job we have, the place we live, the position we hold, or the project we lead.

We hold on with white-knuckled strength, often to the detriment of ourselves and to longer term opportunities. When our grip is tight our focus is on the past and on maintaining the status quo, making it difficult to see and create a better future.

Jim Collins has written a new book titled "Great by Choice." In this book, he has studied leaders who have led and succeeded during these chaotic, ever-changing and difficult times. He compares them to leaders who were subject to the same external conditions and yet, didn't succeed. This comparison allows him to determine the critical factors that really differentiate those successful leaders.

You may think that his findings concluded that the successful leaders were more bold, risk-takers who were more likely to take leaps into the unknown than those who were not successful.

But he discovered the opposite was true.

Those leaders who succeeded, despite changing circumstances, were able to observe what worked, figured out why things worked as they did and built upon proven ways going forward. In essence, they were more pragmatic and disciplined in their approach. They minimized reacting emotionally to the impending changes around them; not blindly following others or just reacting mindlessly.

You could say they distanced themselves from the emotional hold of the past or the emotional fear of the unknown. They only looked back to get the lessons learned in order to help craft the future on a similar foundation.

So as I take this journey, and you take similar journeys filled with change remember these key points:
You are the constant in a sea of change. All of the elements that make a house a home are all coming along with me. Just like when one leaves one company to start a new venture somewhere else, you take with you all of the elements that can make this new role a career.
Recognize that a tight grip is usually based on fear. Fear of not being able to create in the future what you have already created in the past. Take the time to understand what worked in the past and why it worked. Build a similar foundation in the future to apply this approach adjusting accordingly to changing needs and conditions.
Be pliable and flexible. Grips are not flexible, they are rigid. When you feel the tightening of your attitude, and the gripping of your outlook, remember that part of the journey is to see that more can be gained with openness than with a closed mindset.
I have never been one to be able to just leap...hoping that a net would miraculously appear. So I have been thrilled to learn that those who do succeed in the face of extreme change do in fact leap into the unknown, but they succeed not because they leap but because they have also taken the time to carefully craft their net.

Thank you, Jim Collins. I am loosening my grip and am busy crafting my net.

What about you?

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