In a post at Harvard Business Online, Bill Taylor reflects on the influential article "Change or Die," published five years ago by Fast Company. "It was a bracing reminder of how hard it is for people to make deep-seated changes in their habits, even when they know the price of failure may be death, in the form of a heart attack," he explains.
Against such challenges, Taylor recently achieved a longstanding weight-loss goal and says the lessons he learned during that process can also help businesses adapt in a tumultuous marketplace—even when they resist change. Here are a few takeaways:
Frame change as a positive step forward. Taylor banished the word "diet" from his vocabulary. "I always told myself, and explained to others, that I was on a 'nutrition program' to make me more fit," he notes. "That was a distinction with a real difference." With that simple semantic shift, he changed the focus from the negative (what he'd given up) to the positive (what he would achieve). "[S]o much of how leaders make the case for change is based on fear," he says, "[I]f we don't cut costs, or increase margins, or eliminate cycle times, we'll go out of business." Don't dwell on your fear of failure; instead, think of the pleasure you take in progress.
Use each success to build momentum. Losing just a few pounds fueled Taylor's passion for losing more. "In part," he says, "that's because little victories inspire greater confidence, in part it's because outsiders begin to notice and offer positive feedback, which creates even more commitment to keep going. When it comes to change, big victories are the results of lots of little wins."
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