Taking Action to Make Real Change

By on January 6, 2014

By Sandy Abell –

I was recently hired by a client to help streamline her business operations, so I spent an afternoon in her office observing and asking questions. I noted that Sherry spent a lot of time writing on a large yellow pad of paper, making notes to herself and her staff. When asked why she did this, her response was, “I have always done this. It helps me remember what I need to do and keeps me organized.”

I continued the inquiry because I wanted to know how Sherry followed up with these notes, and how the information went from her yellow pad to her staff. As an exercise, I asked Sherry to go back through the yellow pad and to compile the tasks and notes she had listed for the past week.

It took Sherry some time to compile the list, but in doing so, she realized that in one week, she had written the same tasks and notes multiple times. When I asked her what actions had been taken in regard to these notations, Sherry suddenly realized that this yellow pad of paper actually represented inefficiencies and procrastinations. She also was quite shocked to learn that she had failed to verbally communicate some important things to her staff.

While writing on the yellow pad of paper made Sherry feel productive, it was actually an old habit that prevented her from taking action. To streamline her business operations, Sherry knew she had to change. We ordered a large white board for her office, which created accountability for every task listed, and motivation to erase them from the board once completed. We also initiated an in-house email system that ensured timely messages were sent to her staff.

IS THIS YOU?

Are there areas in your business or personal life where you are still doing things as they’ve always been done, even though it’s no longer efficient? Are there specific areas in your life that you need to change, but for some reason you are reluctant to actually do them? If so, you are definitely not alone. There are many reasons why people are hesitant to let go of doing things the way they have always done them.

COMFORT ZONE

One of the main reasons for doing things the same is that doing something the way you’ve always done it keeps you in your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is a very nice place in which you are a capable, competent person who understands what is going on and feels in control of it all. It’s a pleasant, cozy, safe place to be. Why would you want to let go of that?

However, the down side of your comfort zone is that it keeps you stuck and stops your growth. It reinforces using procedures that may be outdated or inefficient, and makes your business vulnerable to your competition. It is also a boring place to be, and robs you of the opportunity to grow, learn new things and become the best you can be.

FEAR OF CHANGE

Another you may stay in their comfort zone is the fear of change. Change often represents uncertainty, and the unknown is a scary place. You don’t know for sure how things will turn out. It’s a place where, for a time, you feel inadequate and confused instead of competent and capable. There is also the fear that you may not be smart, good or clever enough to master the new thing.

Many people spend their lives doing everything they can to avoid fear. However, the reality is that every change, anything new, will involve some fear. The way to deal with fear is to confront and move through it. Feel the fear and do it anyway!

WHY HAVE I ALWAYS DONE IT THAT WAY?

Often systems are implemented because they are the best available at the time. However, as time passes and new ways of doing things are created, it’s important to stay open to change.

For example, when I was a child I would stand holding the refrigerator door open while deciding on a snack. My mother would always tell me to close the door because all the cold air was escaping. Since she did that with me, I did the same with my children (we’d always done it that way). Until one day my son asked “Why”? He pointed out that the refrigerator was electric and constantly made more cold air, so it escaping wasn’t really a problem.

Of course, he was right! I’d never thought about why I was delivering this message, so I asked my mother where it came from. She said that her mother always said it to her, so she believed it and passed it along. However, when my mother was a small child, refrigerators were actual iceboxes, which were cooled by large blocks of ice. When the door was opened, the ice melted faster and they really did run out of cold air.

When my grandmother told her children to close the door, it was the right message for the situation. As the message was passed on from generation to generation, the situation changed and the fridge no longer ran out of cold air. (I do understand it takes electricity to generate more). However, nobody looked at the reason for the message. We just kept doing it as we’d always done it.

In Sherry’s case, her system of writing notes on a yellow pad made sense before she became so busy. With more clients and an increase in staff, she had to look for better ways to remember important tasks and to communicate company wide.

WHAT TO DO

Once you have identified things that may need a change, ask yourself:

  • Where did this procedure originate?
  • What was its original purpose?
  • Does this still apply?
  • Is there an easier way to accomplish the same goal?
  • What are the consequences of continuing to do things the way we’ve always done them?
  • What will be the results of implementing a new process?
  • What is stopping me from implementing this new process?
  • What will I do about this?

Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to make the move. Change the procedure, buy and learn the new program, delegate to whomever can do the job, or completely let go of the procedure if it no longer applies.

Today, Sherry still uses her yellow pad of paper, but it is now for her thoughts and about new ideas she’s pondering. After going through the process of change, Sherry is noticing a remarkable increase in her own personal productivity, and a higher level of communication company wide. Sherry moved out of her comfort zone to make the necessary changes. She admits that the changes weren’t easy, but she is learning new skills as a business owner and manager. Sherry has also renewed her sense of being even more empowered, capable and competent.

About Sandy Abell

Sandy Abell is a business and life coach, author, educator, speaker and Licensed Professional Counselor. She specializes in working with executives, business owners, professionals, entrepreneurs and people in transition. Sandy is the author of Self-Esteem: An Inside Job and Moving Up To Management: Leadership and Management Skills for New Supervisors, both available at Amazon.com and for your NOOK. She also publishes a free monthly newsletter entitled Focusing On Your Success. Please visit Sandy on her website at www.insidejobscoach.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Taking Action to Make Real Change