If you know anything about dogs, you know that when they’re chained within a boundary they tend to stay behind that boundary even when the chain is no longer attached.
When you think about it business leaders, executives do the same the only differences are that there are no chains tied to us. Unlike dogs our invisible walls are self-inflicted. When we think we can’t do something, we don’t? If we haven’t observed something being done, we don’t believe it’s possible.
This was my big aha moment of 2020. It was the year that many of the invisible wall statements: I can’t, it isn’t, we shouldn’t, and my favorite of all, “that’s inconvenient,” came down. The dogma that said this is the way it’s always been done went out the window. It would’ve been nice if we came to this on our own but unfortunately, COVID forced the conversation. Once the conversation began new ideas and new courage flowed as a result. People started to reinvent, rediscover and expand the ways of doing business in ways they never considered possible.
I recently spoke with a retailer who in pre-pandemic times had a storefront where her associates greeted every customer that walked in her door. When the pandemic began, she was forced to see people by appointment only. Even though she saw fewer people her business skyrocketed. Why? Most of the people walking into her store were never going to buy from her, but she had to put pay staff to engage them anyway. The appointment system allowed her to focus entirely on her real customer at a lower cost.
The thing about being comfortable
The two things we know about being comfortable is that it doesn’t last and never works when we’re trying to grow. If we ignore these truths after a while being comfortable turns into complacency Exercising what I like to call the Idea Muscle with your team or by yourself is from time to time will help you to stay in a place that enables change and suppresses complacency.
Here’s what I think when we see ourselves as good at something the moment, we realize it becomes a picture in our head of what that success looks like. The snapshot tells us what we’re good at, how we make it happen, and sometimes even why we’re doing it. We start to believe in it as finite but if unattended over time becomes narrower. We do not however consider the unknown factors of the future world around us. Even though the world around us, that which is out of our sphere of influence, teaches us that nothing stays the same regardless of what we’re doing our natural instinct is to focus on that image, what got us where we are. As a side note. Many times, what made you successful at one level will absolutely kill you at the next vertical level. Considering that we’re built for growth, the world around us changes and that we want to stay in business for future successes, this gives us a leg up, and most times keeps us ahead of our competition. Again, the beauty of 2020 was it forcing us to consider what once seemed out of reach, and by that, I mean out of the question, there was simply no other option.
In much the same way, 2020 reminds me of the 2007 2008 recession. Large companies were forced to hire more part-timers and let full-timers go to save on labor—a large part of business P&L. The same traffic was coming through doors with fewer people helping them. The results taught industries, the same lesson COVID provided.
So now we have 2020 to add to the case studies of unseen change and outside factors. The challenge for us is to learn from them. If you have dogmatic thoughts like we can’t, there’s no way they’ll like it, we just don’t have the bandwidth, a great question to ask yourself is where are those thoughts coming from? Why do we use such a small piece of possibility in a world of endless possibilities?
The future will definitely bring new challenges in new opportunities and new comforts. We’ll eventually be tempted to define ourselves by how we do it and what we do protecting our simple vision of what we have but we don’t want to do it at the expense of