Transformation, Strengths, and Monstrous Changes

Every year, August slowly brings back that crisp morning air and the sense that Autumn is just around the corner.  With it, of course, comes the beautiful transformation of nature as we (at least here in Canada) begin to prepare for the coming winter. It is always during this point in time that I begin to reflect on my own transformation.  What has changed since the year began? Where do I need to adjust my course? Are the waters up ahead calm or am I headed for a storm?

I’m not a believer of “new year resolutions” but I am very much a believer of naturally taking stock of where you are and where you’re going, both in a personal and a professional way. And just as the new school year arrives every September offering new challenges and opportunities for learning to students, I try to peek around the corner and figure out “the shape of things to come” in my own life. It’s just an instinctive reaction I have to the changing of this season.

A few years ago, I was asked to go on camera and record my thoughts on what I thought about Transformation in business and the challenges that come with change. Never one to shy away from (a) sharing my thoughts or (b) being on camera, I readily agreed. The memory of the video came back to me recently while discussing Clifton StrengthsFinder with a friend and my approach to using it.

Change for change’s sake doesn’t work for me. If you’re going to invest time, money, and energy into something, it should be for a positive and rewarding experience. Often, just looking at a situation differently is enough to spark a change.  For example, I used to carry my personal motto with me to every meeting I went to.  A simple note of “Make it Happen” reminded me that nothing happens without someone to put things in motion. When I was given my first team, I made a small change to my saying and shared it with the team.  It became: “Make IT Happen”.  As Information Technologists, our job was to support our colleagues, our clients, and our company. There was no reason that we couldn’t do whatever it took. We just needed to take full ownership and get the job done.

Simplistic?  Yes.  Difficult?  Sometimes, yes, it was. When you are working in an environment that doesn’t empower employees to challenge the status quo, it’s easy to fall into a routine. Deciding that you will and CAN get the job done (and that you have the support to do so) changes the way you approach a problem. And when you’re working in a cohesive team, there are ample ideas to help you out if you get stuck.

As is the case with any new direction, not everyone bought in on the changes. Eventually, though, once the benefits started to materialize and people noticed the positive and impactful changes we had introduced, it became second nature. I’m proud to say that those employees quickly earned a reputation for being knowledgeable, trustworthy, efficient, and most importantly, dependable. They became known for getting IT done.

Let me wrap up this post by sharing the transcript of my recorded interview:

“Personally, there is a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes that sums up my feelings about Transformation. It is this: ‘We must sail sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it, but sail we must and not drift nor lie at anchor’.

The point, for me, is that we need to keep moving, keep adapting, keep looking for newer and better ways to use our skills, our talents, our people, in ways that empower them, make them accountable and get them energized by the possibilities that new ventures can bring us.

Transformation is all about taking a look at where we are and what is to come and finding ways to synergize the best of both worlds, keep us heading in the direction we need to go to reach our goals and just learn to steer our ship with more eloquence and speed with the whole team working together towards those goals.

It’s not about forgetting the old and blindly embracing the new, but about accepting, not resisting, what is to come and seeing how it can fit with what already is.

In other words, to use another quote, it’s about building a better tomorrow, today.”

(Disclaimer: Mike Aragona’s top Strength is Strategy, but he never imagined he would one day quote Monster’s Inc. during an interview on Business Transformation, even though that movie’s theme (now that he thinks about it) is all about changing a business model to survive!! His thoughts and opinions are his alone and do not reflect any person or company associated with him, alive or dead.)

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