What Riding a Motorcycle Taught Me About Change Management

Posted by Elise Mitchell on June 17, 2015

Four Steps to Embracing Change as a Leader

Through the uncertainty of running a business, one constant remains: You can count on things to change. So why is overcoming change so hard?

By embracing change, you’re inviting the unfamiliar — or the unknown — into your world. And no one likes to be caught off guard, especially business leaders.

In fact, leading an enterprise through a decade of change has been one of the most trying tasks I’ve encountered as a business leader. Surprisingly, riding a motorcycle has taught me about the destination and the journey — both on the road and in the business world.

The concept of “looking through the turn” applies to both of these scenarios. As you approach a turn, you look where you want to go rather than fixate on the small details (and potential hazards) of the turn itself. You keep your eyes focused on where you want to end up and rely upon your instincts and experience to make the necessary adjustments within the turn.

Focusing on long-term goals while skirting immediate threats is the key to successful motorcycling and leadership alike. And it’s especially effective when navigating times of change and uncertainty.

Start Embracing Change and Reaping the Rewards

The world changes and continues to spin with or without you. And if your business fails to change or adapt, you can expect to meet a grim fate.

Several years ago, my PR firm entered a period of significant evolution. We began to diversify our business by expanding our capabilities and offering new services to clients. Rather than partner or outsource the work, we made strategic hires in specialized areas, such as digital and social media, design, video production, consumer insights, training, and development. As a result, we expanded our business and repositioned ourselves in the marketplace as a fully integrated communications firm.

Keeping our eyes on the horizon allowed us to see that the industry was changing and quickly react to the growth of things like digital and social media. To meet the needs of our existing clients (and attract new ones), we had to develop and deliver services for these emerging channels.

To manage change, you must be prepared for it. With the right framework in place, your company can learn to anticipate and embrace change — turning potential challenges into lucrative new opportunities.

Here’s how to prime your organization to deal with change:

1. Monitor the environment. Make it your business to know what is changing, how, and why. Observe trends in disruptive technology, communication channels and formats, cultural experiences, social change, and consumer behavior. As companies’ needs evolve, they’ll turn to outside resources to fill the gaps they can’t accommodate internally. By anticipating these situations, you can proactively spot business opportunities.

2. Understand your value proposition. By honing your competitive advantage, you’ll learn what the world will and won’t buy from you. Do you offer your product or service at a competitive price, guarantee a speedy delivery, or pride yourself on superior quality? When considering a new product or service, make sure it’s a natural extension of your core competency. The last thing you want to do is damage your credibility.

3. Weigh your budget and resources against innovation. Determine an innovation budget and a projected ROI. How quickly would you get your money back so you’re turning a profit? With this frame of mind, you can make decisions about moving forward or pulling the plug much faster and more intuitively.

For example, after foreseeing the need for video, we determined that building a video team would be more affordable than outsourcing the work, especially with the increasing availability of affordable HD equipment. And due to the proliferation of social media, company websites, and YouTube, we discovered new uses for these videos, which only bolstered ROI.

4. Try new things. Adaptive leadership is at the heart of change management. To embrace change, you must be able to recognize opportunities and innovate in real time to find revolutionary solutions. But becoming adaptive also means putting your fears aside. Be bold, and encourage your team to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and adopt a “let’s do it” mentality. You’ll be amazed by the results.

Above all, you need to stay true to your core expertise when responding to market needs or adding ancillary services. The credibility you’ve established will bear more weight on the purchase decision than any other factor. We were a new player in video content, but because our audience had a trusting relationship with us, they’re willing to give us a shot.

Coming face-to-face with change is the ultimate sink-or-swim moment for your business. But knowing it’s time to scrap the map, trust your experience, and follow a natural extension of your business — that’s how organizations manage change and evolve to live another day.

Topics: Digital Marketing, Marketing, Public Relations