How to develop a leadership mindset to improve your relationship to uncertainty & thrive amid constant change
Entrepreneurs thrive on change. But we tend to love changes that we choose, like starting a new business. What happens when change blindsides you? How can you learn to harness unwelcome change and turn it into something better than what came before? As we head toward a future in which little is more certain than uncertainty, we must reshape how we think about and relate to change. This is the message of my new book, Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change (Berrett-Koehler).
The book is not about "change management," which is a rather underwhelming approach given the scale and pace of change we face today. Rather, it teaches you how to strengthen your relationship to change. It draws on my experience as an adviser to numerous startups and entrepreneurs, as a globetrotter working and traveling in 100-plus countries, and as a human being whose own life has been flipped upside down in both tragic and incredible ways. Here are three lessons from the book.
Don't be afraid to get a little lost
Think about a time when you've been lost as an entrepreneur. Perhaps you've been building a new product or feature. Do you tend to seek a quick fix, or to convince yourself and others that you are not actually lost? Or do you embrace being lost -- and pay attention to where it can take you? This means stretching beyond your comfort zone, talking to different kinds of customers, or even radically rethinking why your company exists. These are steps that not all entrepreneurs are ready (or excited) to take, and yet they can make all the difference.
Evan Williams began Twitter as a side project. He wandered off the main path and developed an interesting concept, even if he wasn't quite sure what it was. Conventional advice would have said that he should have focused on his main line of business. But he allowed himself to get lost and keep exploring.
During times of relative stability, getting lost is treated as a weakness. But during times of great change, getting lost -- and feeling comfortable being lost -- is actually a superpower. It's how you find your path forward in a world in flux.
Look for what's invisible
When you're building a business and leading a team, it's common to focus on the opportunities and challenges that you can "see." That usually means opportunities you can monetize and challenges you can measure in dollars and cents. But if you limit your scope to what's visible, you often miss the most valuable assets and insights of all.
Consider Airbnb. Its founders saw value in the extra space in people's homes. Hotels and traditional accommodation providers didn't "see" this idling capacity as valuable, and they wrote it off. Airbnb ended up building a business with more listings than the five largest hotel brands in the world combined.
The opportunities to see what's invisible are everywhere. Think about the skills people have that aren't on their "visible" résumé, or a marketing campaign that sees people not merely as consumers who buy things but as human beings capable of so much more.
Reset your endgame
Entrepreneurs often treat a specific milestone, like a revenue goal, a certain number of hires, or an IPO, as their endgame. Yet in a world in flux, change begets change. There is no endgame other than ... change. A prized company today could shutter tomorrow. Workplace norms we take for granted could change tomorrow too. The way forward isn't merely more resilience and adaptability. It's about adopting what I call a Flux Mindset: a state of mind that embraces change -- and an ever-changing finish line. Its endgame isn't set in stone but rather in constant evolution.
Keep in mind that this process works from the inside out. Your self-awareness and your relationship to change are reflected in the way you communicate, design, build, and lead into the future. External metrics are driven by internal values, not the other way around. This is extremely easy for entrepreneurs to miss. One helpful question to get started is: Are you clear on what makes you you, and what makes your company able to thrive -- even when everything else changes?
This isn't about any one change or any one year. A world in flux is here to stay, and it has profound implications for entrepreneurs, companies, and society alike. Learning how to embrace getting lost, see what's invisible, and reset your endgame will advance today's business goals and organizational culture, and position you to thrive in a future whose "steady state" is more change.
This article was originally published on Inc.