This article, “Look Before You Leap,” by Brad Smith, offers a perspective on leadership that I haven’t considered before. Managing change when you inherit a team that’s already excelling has never crossed my mind as a potential career challenge I could face in the future. For some reason, my idea of a leader was always someone who fixes major problems or spots glaring holes in the way things are done, and solves those issues with enthusiasm.
Smith’s article, which came across my LinkedIn newsfeed, talks about ways to look for positive change when work is already getting done well and the organization is thriving. In it, Smith discusses foreseeing how the organization’s industry could be at risk for being disrupted as one way to effect meaningful change. It’s one of many tips he offers that involve looking at opportunities outside the organization as options for change. I thought this was pretty insightful. After all, it makes sense, and looking back, this is what most major successful companies are doing these days. Amazon is constantly looking for ways to revolutionize new markets, like with their recent acquisition of Whole Foods and building brick-and-mortar stores.
Smith also provides some additional tips for effecting meaningful change when the ship is sailing smoothly, such as how to build a narrative about why change is needed when things are going well. It’s definitely worth a read. My key takeaway from this article was inspired by the following quote: “How do you bring your fresh perspective to a team with a strong track record without seeking change for change’s sake?” I think it’s really important to identify opportunities for positive changes that aren’t necessarily earth-shattering, mission-shifting, new directions. For example, perhaps the employees could benefit from policy change that removes red tape from a process, or adds a benefit to make the company more appealing to new recruits and keeps veteran employees happy as well. The idea of not just changing things for the sake of change is definitely one of those nuggets of wisdom that I’ll tuck away for later in my career!