Calling the Harbinger of Change
At a recent dinner in the UK with my old boss and a few of his key staff, I quickly realized I had not actually spoken to them for almost 13 years. It was certainly great to catch up after so long. Since last meeting with them I had lived in three countries, worked for two companies and also started a few of my own. I had also authored two new books for sales and executives that incorporated much about change. They, however, were still with the same company, doing (in effect) the same roles. But were they? Before arriving for dinner I pondered over what it would be like to catch-up after so long, hear their stories, listen to what (if anything) had changed. I felt a bit like the Harbinger of Change, the one who would swoop in, and tell them by necessity that they had to change, or else. How wrong I was.
They entertained with memorable old stories, enthralled with exciting new ones, and had a zest for their own life as well as the positive differences they were making in other people’s lives. As they spoke, I began to see it wasn’t about them – after all, they had essentially the same jobs, working for the same company. At least they had moved offices since then, although it was to new, bigger premises just down the street. It was clear the Harbinger of Change was not needed here and would likely need to spend his time looking elsewhere. But why had a company that was over 25 years old still remained so positive to constant change (in fact my old boss had recently celebrated 25 years of tenure and was as excited about the future as I remember 13 years previously)? I suspected there were lots of reasons and I have listed my own take-aways from the dinner conversation below, but somehow I suspect I am only scratching at the surface:
1. Their values – continuous and positive change is one of the company’s core values. It’s not just something enclosed in their values document receiving little attention. Instead it is authentically practiced, lived day-in day-out by the majority of their employees, and continues to be viewed as both necessary and critical for continued business success. Truly values in action.
2. Having fun – when I asked my old boss was he thinking about retiring now he was in his early fifties, he replied, “Why would I? I’m still having fun!” Having worked (and learned) from him for many years, I knew that the business was often challenging – that’s the nature of most businesses after all. But the challenges were looked upon as fun and exciting, ones that through creativity, team involvement and a lot of hard work could all be overcome. Fun for sure.
3. It’s interesting – when you are part of something for a long time, things, and in fact many things can become stale. You can fall into the trap of mediocrity and quickly become one of the herd. You can convince yourself not to change – or at least not to be radical and change too much – since what got you here will surely get you to where you need to, by doing what you have always done. Wrong! Every business, every industry (and in fact every individual) is constantly changing. It takes great skill and courage to actively seek out these changes and then understand what options there might be to maximize for both business and personal goals. It’s people with these attributes that create the constant change and excitement in our world. Now that is interesting.
4. Helping others – much has been written about this, but it was clear from my dinner conversations, that much was centred on how their products, and how they were being used, were genuinely helping people and making a difference in their lives. There was something much more to my old colleagues than just how much money they earned, how many share options they had, and what they were personally spending their money on. Successful people helping others; simply brilliant.
5. Not everyone can – it would be great to think that everyone can make the necessary changes in a timely enough fashion, but realty paints a different picture. One where, some people through laziness, boredom, intransigence or other reasons, will resist making the necessary and needed changes. Great companies keep people who can consistently and positively change, and through necessity let go the others.
6. It’s the same but different – one of the points that all three of my dinner guests made was the company was essentially still the same in many respects, but yet had changed considerably. Surely an impossibility? But yet listening to their stories, it became clear they held strongly to the company’s core values, provided amazing coaching, mentoring and training for their key staff, and continued to build from an amazing base of a strong ethical, personal and business foundation. Without doubt they had grown by adding considerably to their products and services, their geographic footprint extending into many of the emerging countries with gusto, and their organization substantially larger than before. Different – but somehow the same.
7. A sense of wonder – I found this to be one of the most remarkable signs from “the old timers” They each had a genuine sense of wonderment about their industry and the different possible scenarios that might evolve over the coming years. As students of these possible scenarios, their insight and conversation was both deep and steeped with much wisdom. I suspected that with this level of deep and meaningful debate that no matter what transpired in their industry they had a good chance of staying on top. Inquisitiveness and wonderment – intriguing.
8. It’s ALL about change – my old boss finished the dinner conversation saying, “You know it’s really ALL about change!” Of course he was completely right, but embedded in his statement was the implication – it’s about what you choose to do with the inevitable changing dynamics of your business and your life. By accepting change as a constant in your life, you can pro-actively accommodate and enable significant forward progress now and in the future. Change is cool.
The company in question is Microchip Technology, headquartered in Chandler, Ariz. and one from which I learned and experienced so much that was positive. They are quickly heading towards $2 billion in revenues, continue to be highly profitable, and have undoubtedly transformed the lives of many of their employees, investors, partners and customers for decades. I hope their magic of positive change continues, and that the Harbinger of Change never has a need to call on them. I somehow suspect he won’t.
As a last humorous thought – d we were all sharing our physical ailments near the end of the dinner. It became clear that each of my dinner guests had snapped their Achilles heel at one point or another. I wondered (quietly) if making all these great and continuous positive changes in business and in life had something to do with your Achilles heel? I suspected not, but since I was inquisitive, I just wondered.
Joe Connelly is Founder & CEO of Salesleadership.com, a worldwide Executive Sales Coaching and Consultancy company, with offices in Canada and Switzerland. Joe can be reached at [email protected]