Working with leaders and entrepreneurs on a regular basis gives me the opportunity to connect with them in a way that others do not. How? I get to see the mentality they have towards change, something that can best be explained with a story.
Imagine you’re an apple farmer. Your experience has taught you that a perfect orchard, one that yields the most fruit year after year, needs to have the following:
- The best trees and the right variety to fit the soil and weather for your area;
- Clear rows and tight trees to maximize land space;
- Pruning diligence to ensure it’s done at the right time and in the right way;
- Knowledge of fertilizer and soil care to optimize nutrients;
- Well-maintained equipment backed by a regular maintenance schedule;
- Smart, well trained and hardworking employees.
Let’s assume that, since you’ve worked hard to achieve this mix, you’ve had excellent results. But suppose you’ve heard that a farm in the next county was getting an amazing crop that outpaced your crop yield by 30% each year. That farm grows the same variety with pretty much the same land size that you have. The farmer is known to be young, passionate and unconventional by nature. You muster up the courage to go and visit him to see how his farming operation differs from yours.
Upon arriving, you walk around the orchard. The first thing you notice is that the rows of trees are scattered. They also appear to be improperly pruned – at least by your standards – and the equipment is haphazardly arranged around the farm. Even more disturbing is the feeling you get watching the employees: they seem to be less engaged in what they’re doing and don’t appear to be working nearly as hard as your staff.
As the visiting farmer, what are you thinking at this moment?
- Are you discouraged by your own farm’s results?
- Do you want to talk to him, to try and get his farm to follow your best practices and discipline?
- Are you inspired by learning why his farm is getting better results and are you open to embracing change?
How you answer depends on your mindset towards change. In my story above, in order for the visiting apple farmer to truly grasp what is occurring at the neighbouring farm and in order to realize results, he must first seek to understand as much as he can and then apply this new learning to his own operation.
The same principle applies to real life as well as business. We all know that change is occurring at a rapid pace and economic challenges are playing havoc with strategic plans. A wise leader chooses to respond to change as a student – one willing to put aside preconceived ideas and practices so that he/she can be open to understanding why results are occurring the way they are. This takes effort, humility and the ability to adapt, which can be challenging for leaders who are accustomed to certain ways and comfortable with their expertise.
Being open to change and learning from it is a fundamental principle that I’ve found to be a key attribute that separates successful people, including entrepreneurs, from the rest.
Have a great day,