Five Traps and Keys to Success for Creating Rapid Breakthrough Change

By Mark Samuel –

Leaders often talk about making breakthrough changes within their organizations with the intention to transform business results or significantly pivot performance. They can make the case, inspire people with a new vision, and set priorities to align with the message. Talking about it is easy. Acting on those new priorities, however, and taking the risk of “rocking the established boat” that has led to the organization’s long-standing success, is much harder to do.

Leaders can easily mask their stuck state and their resistance to taking the risk of change by endlessly debating and arguing about the best approach for making the necessary changes. Moving to the Breakthrough State, or what we refer to as the B STATE, requires the willingness to disrupt the organization’s current political, influential, and historical ways of thinking and behaving. This can be unnerving, making many people want to stall the move forward, consciously or unconsciously, in order to avoid feeling out of control while on the unknown path of achieving breakthrough results.

If you are truly dedicated to creating breakthrough results for your organization, turn the following Traps into Courageous Action.

1. Trade in Opinions for Knowledge

Leaders can debate endlessly about future consequences and results with no basis for assessing reality because it hasn’t yet happened. You can easily justify your position based on the evidence you take from your micro view of past incidences to make your case. But whether optimistic or pessimistic about the future, you are correct because you are creating it.

Leaders of breakthrough results have one thing in common: they are willing to take actions into unchartered territories, gain experience along the way, and allow their experience to inform the changes they make based on the knowing that comes from experience. The game plan is simple: learn from experience and adjust quickly.

2. Trade in Fear of Failure for a Recovery Plan

Creating a business transformation by definition pushes leaders into the space of the unknown. If it was known, they’d be there already! This unknown space can be frightening because it can feel like you have nothing to hold onto as you trek forward. This can cause people to feel like they’re moving toward B STATE too quickly, too slowly, or to begin thinking that it looks like a bad idea altogether. While it’s important to trust the process and keep moving to gain experience and learn, there are ways to alleviate the fear, concerns and doubt in a way that can improve results.

Take time to surface the concerns associated with moving into the unknown of achieving breakthrough results. Remember, the skeptics don’t know that their concerns will manifest even though they will argue as if it’s a fact. Meanwhile, the optimists don’t know that those concerns won’t surface. So together, create a “Recovery Plan” in case the concern does show up. This could be a contingency plan or a simple adjustment to the original plan. It could even be a plan to stop and get everyone together to collaborate on a solution given any new problematic conditions. Either way, you have alignment on moving forward with a safety valve for addressing concerns and fears rather than being blocked by them.

3. Trade in the Vulnerability of Unpredictability for Commitment to Your Picture of Success

In past models of leadership, a leader’s credibility was based on the trust created by predictable goals and results due to past performance. Leaders had to know everything to be the number one authority when making decisions and establishing future plans. However, when pioneering the plains of achieving breakthrough results, you can’t predict the future because it isn’t solely based on the past.

In order to achieve breakthrough results, the most important thing that the leader must know is a clear Picture of Success for what breakthrough results look like—not just the desired business outcomes, but the mindset and behaviors necessary for all leaders and employees to work together to achieve and sustain breakthrough results.

4. Trade in Decision by Consensus for Moving Forward Quickly to Gain Experience for Learning

Buy-in is not the underlying key to success for achieving Breakthrough Results. People will naturally have different reactions based on their comfort with risk or change, their need to stay in control, and their ability to understand the Picture of Success without yet experiencing it, since at the beginning it’s only a concept. Therefore, you can get stuck debating the concept forever, listening to the diverse perspectives of everyone involved, and never actually move forward on the breakthrough change.

The key to success is not achieving buy-in or consensus, but moving forward with the change in order to gain experience so you can learn and make adjustments. Experience has two advantages. First, it can dispel the catastrophic scenarios shared by Negativists to invoke resistance. Second, it demonstrates commitment to the Breakthrough results you desire as you move and make adjustments along the way. If you weren’t committed, you would just return to status quo and give up. This commitment through adjustment signals to people that even if they aren’t sure about or don’t understand the change, you are going to proceed regardless of adversity.

5. Trade in Attachment to the Plan of Change for Becoming a GPS to Breakthrough Results

You can make a plan to get to B STATE, but you can’t know if, when, or how that plan will actually work. Your plan is a guide and a way to get started, but it’s not your north star. Think of it like a GPS. Your GPS wants to get you to your destination, so it makes adjustments as you move toward your destination. If you take a wrong turn, your GPS doesn’t just get you back on the original route, it gets you to your destination in the fastest way possible from where you currently are. This is exactly how it works to get from your current A State to your future B STATE.

Creating Breakthrough Results is not some external goal you try to achieve. It’s an inner process of changing how you think and what you do that represents a Breakthrough Change. As a leader, it begins with you. Then, it’s guiding your organization to think and behave differently, consistent with the manifestation of Breakthrough results. By thinking differently and then doing differently, you produce different results and manifest your breakthrough B STATE transformation.

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