Although it occurred several years ago, I remember this faculty meeting as if it were yesterday. One of the presentations disclosed enrollment trends that disappointed many of my fellow faculty. An increasing number of students were enrolling in online as opposed to on-campus courses. In short, the online modality more closely matched many students’ desired method for consuming education.
Although many of the faculty could teach both online and on-campus, their traditional teaching backgrounds created a comfort level and natural desire to interact with their students in a classroom environment. The shift from a classroom setting to online just didn’t feel right to some, and that made it difficult to embrace change even though the data stated the obvious.
Shifting business environments make change necessary, but it doesn’t mean it will be easy. In my role as Chief Marketing Officer there are always struggles to keep new initiatives on track even when the data indicates that the change is not optional. Strong feelings to revert back to the old status quo are often lurking just below the surface. For example, a shift in our media planning recommendations away from traditional marketing programs and into new media programs at times creates fear, uncertainty, and doubt within parts of our organization. You can just imagine the questions swirling:
- What will our traditional customers think if we don’t show up for that trade show?
- How will our competition, not to mention our business partners, react to our strategy changes?
- How do we know for sure that these new media channels will deliver sales leads and results?
Change has no conscience. It doesn’t play favorites, or take prisoners. In fact change ruthlessly destroys organizations that don’t adapt. So, from a leadership perspective here are three traits I intend to embrace:
- Take the initiative by putting my team in charge of problem-solving. If I make them (or let them) wait for hand-fed directions I’ll slow down the process.
- Take more risks and be willing to break with the past. I’ll ask my team to mitigate risk when possible; but make no mistake — both my team and I will need more nerve in order to keep our new initiatives on track.
- Maintain faith in the new initiatives. As soon as change starts throwing off sparks, people become preoccupied with all the headaches, aggravations, and fears. I know there will be dark days; however, I’ll challenge my team to join me in helping our entire organization look beyond the bleakness of the moment and envision the possibilities of tomorrow.