There are some who will tell you, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I don’t necessarily agree. “Functioning” doesn’t always mean “fully optimized,” and without change, we risk falling into a rut, losing perspective, and falling behind.
To grow and stay competitive, you have to change. Here’s why it’s important to disrupt the routine once in a while, and seven simple ways that you can stir things up for the good.
At first I thought that our move from central Pennsylvania to Minnesota wasn’t a great idea. It was disruptive. We already had a nice house in the suburbs with a yard, awesome neighbors and lots of connections in the community.
I had my running routes down to a science, knew where the best local restaurants were hiding, and had finally figured out where I could get a decent haircut.
But we were facing three big “life changes” all at once:
The kids were out of the house and off to college out west, so we had become empty-nesters.
We had been away from family in the mid-west for a long while; we needed to move closer to home.
We didn’t feel ready to buy another house, so we planned to rent a town house, thus we had to down-size.
Making the Change
In the short version of the story, we purged our stuff, sold the house, drove a thousand miles west and Tetrised ourselves into a nice but much smaller place near Mom. And in the process of all that, we’ve made a number of fun discoveries.
Costs are down. Rent is less, we’ve cut out TV and home phone bills, and it turns out that renter’s insurance is a lot less than home-owner’s.
I’m no longer the lawn-care guy. I allowed myself a little smile the first time I stood on our small deck with a cup of coffee in hand and watched someone else mow the grass. More time for other things.
And we look forward to finding new places to discover and explore. Everything seems fresh and full of opportunity.
Disruption for the Good
Why share all this with you? There are close parallels here to good leadership and change.
Leading effectively isn’t just building a system and then letting it run. It’s also about pushing, challenging, experimenting, questioning the old, trying new things, or new combinations of old things.
Someone once said that if you always do what you always did, than you’ll always get what you always got. If your goals involve growth, that’s not the way of the future.
You have to constantly try new things to see what might work better, stimulate more creativity, or create new opportunities.
Beyond that, there is danger in stagnation.
Like a car tire going bald or a baby with an old diaper, sometimes you need to change to keep things going in the direction you want and prevent bad things from happening.
Helicopter mechanics know all about this – they have to know when to change the rotor blade before it brakes.
Changing Rotor Blades
So if it’s been a while since you’ve looked closely at the mechanism that keeps you safely in the air, it might be time to play helicopter mechanic yourself, and think about making some changes. Here are seven ideas for you.
Switch up your meetings. If the Monday morning staff call is getting stale, experiment with changing the day, time, and even the agenda. There are lots of ways to put a fresh spin your meetings that may actually make them more productive. Take a look at these 10 unusual ideas for shaking up your meeting routine.
Rearrange the deck chairs. Sometimes just a physical change of location can stimulate creativity and change perspective. In designing the Pixar campus, Steve Jobs famously put all the restrooms in a single location. This encouraged serendipitous interactions between people who might not otherwise meet, and that led to bursts of unexpected creativity.
How could you could change your seating plan to stimulate new thinking, unexpected interactions, and changed perspectives?
Manage time differently. See what happens when you tinker with timelines. Move morning tasks to the afternoon. Slide late week jobs to Monday or Tuesday. Start earlier and end earlier. Adjust due-dates and milestones. Get input from your team on where you might adjust, and be open to their ideas.
Change roles and responsibilities. If everyone always does the same things the same ways, pretty soon nobody is learning anything, and everybody only knows one job. Switch things up by rotating duties and functions. This may require a little cross-training, but that’s a good thing. The change will add depth to your team and build a greater appreciation for how everyone contributes to team success.
Shuffle the team. Great teams have members with diverse perspectives and experiences. But after a while, even the best ones can descend into groupthink and lose their creative edge. Changing team membership will force team members to listen to different perspectives, and be challenged in new ways.
Tackle a book. Pick a relevant book, then put together a plan to read it and discuss it as a group. Maybe do one chapter a week and meet over lunch to discuss how it could apply to your team. Then put some of the ideas into action. For a number of great book ideas, check out the selections on this list.
Do something fun. Maybe your team is in a rut because it’s all business all the time. Sometimes a little extracurricular fun can add a new spark to group dynamics. As a group, pick something everyone can enjoy and participate in, and let off a little steam. Several thoughts and ideas for you here.
Disrupt the Routine: The Takeaway
It’s important to have clear systems and procedures for getting things done. But as a leader, that is not your only consideration. Sometimes you have to disrupt things a little to keep creative juices flowing, shake off any cobwebs that might be gathering, and keep your machine flight-worthy.
Along the way, it’s likely that you will meet some resistance, but if you approach the effort collaboratively, and help people keep their minds open, who knows what unexpected benefits you will all discover?
For me, all this change doesn’t mean I don’t miss having a backyard to play catch with the dog, or the fire pit evenings with the neighbors. I already do.
But I also like seeing Mom a lot more often, enjoy cheaper, simpler living, love discovering new favorite restaurants, and it turns out the running trails here are pretty awesome.
In fact, I think it’s worth the risk of a bad haircut.