It may be true that the only constant is change, but this doesn’t mean that every single instance of change is a good thing for business. One of your key roles as a leader is to recognise – and weed out – change for change’s sake. Your role is to show your team what it means to embrace the type of change that represents continuous improvement.
Leaders who approach their work with a healthy discontent for the present are ready to consider ways to improve all aspects of their business: production, marketing, sales, admin, finance, IT, HR and so on. This doesn’t mean you need to stomp around looking for trouble and frowning to demonstrate how ‘discontented’ you are. On the contrary, your intentions must be honourable in finding flaws and not fault, so that your business may improve and grow. Remember, whatever happens in your business – the good and the bad – is a reflection of you. And reacting to errors with blame, excuses or denial is to operate ‘below the line’, and I know no effective leader who does this. Whenever and wherever you find a place for improvement, your habitual reaction should be positive, generous and encouraging. Effective leaders operate ‘above the line’ by modelling ownership, accountability and responsibility when things go wrong or when you find an opportunity for improvement.
The ‘healthy discontent’ habit also entails having the willingness and open-mindedness to recognise that even though you are the leader, you won’t have all the answers. You should develop the humility to value the diversity of skills and abilities within your team, and you should regularly ask for input. Similarly, you must be willing to ask experts for their ideas. This will include members of your Board, your professional advisors – accountant and solicitor – as well as your business peers and other mentors.
Complacency – the consequences
Familiarity can lead to complacency. I’ve seen this in business environments that have the potential to thrive but aren’t because the leader uses phrases like ‘that’s just the way things are’ or ‘that’s the way it’s always been done here’. If you become comfortable with the status quo and current routines, your team will do likewise and you will miss opportunities for improvement and growth. Before long, your competitors will not only catch up but pass you by.
Healthy discontent – the benefits
When your leadership habits include having a healthy discontent for the present, and a positive outlook towards change, you are effectively paving the way for improvements at every level. Managed skilfully, change can translate into increased productivity and profitability. When you show your team that you welcome their insights and suggestions, you empower and encourage them to contribute. Not only will this will be hugely satisfying for them and for you, but it will build capacity and value across your business.
The next step to creating your Healthy Discontent Habit is to…
Know thyself as Socrates said. Identify your current leadership style, and ask if it includes the ‘healthy discontent’ habit. Then, commit to exploring the areas of your business where you can create positive change, and accept my invitation to give me a call to discuss how those changes might contribute to your overall business prosperity.