“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”
A lot of influential people — past, present, and, surely, future — have had and will have something to say about change, but this quote from John C. Maxwell is one of my favorites. In life and in business, I don’t believe you can ever become stagnant; you either get better, or you get worse. Choose better.
This change, however, whether it be for the better or the worse, is not something that will culminate all at once. Change is cultivated over a stretch of time and often feels inconsequential until you can actually measure your growth in correlation with your goals. Think back to the last time you tried to implement change in your personal or professional life. Was it impactful? If not, it’s because people tend to have an unhealthy relationship with change.
To stay empowered, we have to sense tangible results right away. But deep-rooted change doesn’t work this way. Think fad diets. It’s rare that anyone attempting to lose weight actually loses the weight and — here’s the key part — keeps it off. Instead, lasting change is supported by small, meaningful, and regular actions. This practice, which is often referred to as Kaizen, is the process of continuous self-improvement. The goal is to aim to progress by one percent at a time. When something becomes a habit, that’s how it sticks.
Slow but consistent wins the race
As a leader, you have innovative ideas and ambitious dreams. The health of your company rests heavily on your shoulders, so profitability and growth are contingent upon your ability to meet the goals you’ve set for yourself.
Just as you pursue investments to increase your earnings over time, making small-scale adjustments at your job will eventually have a profound impact on your success. As these improvements compound on your previous week’s outcomes, you build the unwavering foundation that your professional development is dependent upon.
Challenge (and support) your employees’ growth
Oftentimes, the reasons a company experiences high turnover is twofold: either they don’t prioritize professional development at all or they don’t understand the unique strengths and talents of employees, which makes it impossible to encourage development. If you don’t challenge your employees to grow, they’re going to seek that development elsewhere — at another job.
Employees want you to prioritize job-skills training; it’s listed as one of the top reasons why people choose to leave a business. This is often misconstrued with people wanting higher wages and better benefits but, while sometimes true, 94 percent of people cited lack of professional development as their main reason for moving on from their current roles. The importance of learning and development is only going to continue to become more significant in the workplace as younger generations not only crave more training but more evolved training.
At my company, NatureCity, we encourage everyone — ourselves as founders, management, and entry-level employees — to grow by one percent at a time. But you can’t just say you want this gradual growth, you also have to have the right support system in place. For it to stick and trickle down through everyone at the company, everyone needs access to the right resources, tools, and guidance. What does incremental development look like? How will you measure this success? It’s important not only to be transparent about what this growth looks like, but it’s crucial that you model it as well.
The process, not the outcome, is what’s most important
Change is one of the only constants in our lives; throughout your development, you will continue to achieve the milestones you’ve set for yourself, but you must also continuously raise the bar. This is why you should never expect instantaneous results. Harvard psychologist, Amy Cuddy, says, “The biggest mistake a lot of people make in setting goals for themselves … is that they focus only on the outcome, not the process.”
The biggest mistake a lot of people make in setting goals for themselves … is that they focus only on the outcome, not the process.
If you focus on outcome over process, you lower your threshold of motivation, patience, and dedication. When you focus on the process, instead, you will notice gradual, consistent changes, which will allow you to effortlessly continue from one goal to the next without feeling frustrated that results aren’t materializing fast enough.
The perfect example of this is when Jeff Immelt transformed General Electric through volatile times. His story, he says, is “one of progress versus perfection.” He treated change as life or death. While this may sound a little melodramatic, he took the approach that change cannot be approached nonchalantly. It’s never easy, and it shouldn’t be. If it is, that means it isn’t sticking.
There is no such thing as lackadaisical development. Employees want to learn; they want to grow and watch themselves achieve the milestones they’ve set for themselves along the way. As leaders, the same is true of us. And realistically, that’s only possible when we take things one percent at a time.