Five lessons on how to lead through change

Everyone has an ocean to cross and the journey of the Coxless Crew in the movie documentary Losing Sight of Shore captures what it takes to set out on a journey of growth or change. Whether it’s overcoming an illness, finding a new job, implementing a new process or accelerating your organization’s growth, everyone has an ocean to cross. What’s yours?

Losing Sight of Shore follows the inspiring journey of four courageous women who set out to row 8,000 miles from America to Australia unsupported. Their journey demonstrated the power of perseverance, friendship and resilience. It’s a story of courageous willingness to venture into the unknown.

If you want to reach your next level, you must have the courage to lose sight of the shore. You have to let go of what you know and row out into the unknown. Houston Public Works’ TRANSFORM team is definitely rowing out in the unknown. Thirty change makers set a goal to transform the culture and become a world class organization and I’m honored to lead them on this exciting journey.

Becoming a world class organization sounds like a reasonable goal doesn’t it? But, wait! I forgot to mention that Houston Public Works is a 100+ year old government agency with a tradition of bureacracy, top-down, fear-based leadership, silos and low morale. If that weren’t enough the department operates within a tight budget with intense pressure to manage a 650 square mile infrastructure that’s been radically under invested and is prone to flooding.

Watch the video below to learn how Houston Public Works’ TRANSFORM initiative is inspiring a team of 4000 employees to embark on a massive change effort.

As you can imagine TRANSFORM is a huge undertaking. In fact, you might be thinking how audacious to attempt a project like this. You might be right! I am a little crazy. Then you might wonder, “how are they going to lead this massive change effort?”

There are 5 important lessons I’ve learned from guiding organizations across oceans and leading ambitious change. Perhaps they will inspire you too.

#1: Loosen your grip on what’s familiar.

To change and grow you must give up being comfortable. You have to let go of familiar behaviors and processes. You have to dive in and surrender your need for certainty. When you do, you find that uncertainty can be exhilarating. What outdated processes or structures do you need to let go of to reach your next level of success? What old behaviors are no longer serving you?

#2: Be open to new possibilities.

You can’t always predict the journey of change. Just like when you’re crossing an ocean the winds can blow you off course. An unexpected storm can challenge your endurance or a critical system can fail. You might end up taking a completely different route than planned to reach your destination. Are you willing to be agile and flexible – to change your course?

#3: Build resilience before you need it.

Change requires courage, strength and perseverance. It requires resilience. I remember a client that was committed to crossing their ocean – to build a reputation as a great place to work. One year into the journey fear and fatigue set in. They stopped the change process and reverted back to their old focus on operations and bottom line profits. Their lack of resilience caused the change effort to fail. As you face inevitable change, ask yourself, how resilient are you? How resilient is your team?

#4: Make change fun.

Change can be challenging. It will push you, prod you and kick you in the butt. That’s why people often resist change. So, it’s important to infuse any change initiative with fun. If it isn’t fun, you’ll give up. How can you make change fun?

#5: When you encounter an obstacle and want to give up take one more step.

When you set an ambitious change goal there will be times you will want to give in or give up. When you do, that’s the time to stretch farther – to take one more courageous step and break through the barriers. That’s exactly what Houston Public Works’ Transform did at a recent event. They literally stormed a giant 50 foot “brick” wall plastered with obstacles and barriers to change. What barriers and obstacles to change are you facing? How can you bust through them?

Everyone has an ocean to cross, what’s yours?

Supercharge Your Resilience

Sign up to receive a free Resilience Daily Planner, actionable guidance to supercharge your resilience, and tips to unleash your ROAR.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Stay in Touch

Trainer Certification

Certification and training for learning and development professionals who want to facilitate Sandy’s work with clients and groups.

Learn More