Employers are looking for people who don't just think outside of the box. They want you to invent a new box, wrap it in cellophane, create an app for the box, figure out how to mass produce boxes cheaper than the next company, and then come up with new ways to sell the box on social media. They want creative thinkers because we're living in a world of distraction disorder. Doing things the same old way means you keep the same old customers, stay at the same income, and grow stagnant.

I'm convinced that "resistance to change" is the number one problem with business workers these days and the leading cause of career failure. It's a failure to adapt before it's any other failure. Yet, how we define resistance to change is also important, because you might not even spot the ailment in yourself or the people around you. Resistance to change sometimes looks like a good business process. Or, it looks like you're trying to make people happy. Worse, it looks like you're practicing good (but not great) leadership. Let me explain all three to see if any of them seem familiar.

1. When your process is an excuse

Here's the biggest leading cause of career failure. At a startup, I remember my first day in a new department and realizing that everyone liked doing things "the old way" even though it was totally ineffective. They insisted it was the best business process. In reality, it was the only business process they understood. My boss knew there were problems, and it was my job to start challenging the team to do things differently--better, faster, smarter. The new process worked, my career moved forward.

For anyone stuck in a career, my suggestion is to "pivot" your process, don't get so stuck in doing things a certain way because that's what has always worked. Guess what? It's not really working anymore because the customer has new demands, the market has new interests, and your fellow employees have acquired new skills. It's totally unrealistic to think, in a massively changing business climate, that any process could stay the same--that you don't have to massively change.

2. When "making people happy" means never challenging anyone

It's part of the human condition to want to keep things the same. We think that makes us happy, and there's some interesting science behind this. We know that the brain tends to keep the same neural pathways running like a steady stream. We like things that way. Don't rock the boat, don't venture away from the predictable, don't embrace anything new. It's why we get stressed when we travel and why we sometimes choose to stay home and watch a movie instead of meeting new people, even if you're an extrovert. Yet, if you find your career has reached a roadblock and you're miserable, it might have something to do with not embracing change. The truth is, we're never happy with routine for long. Creating new neural pathways is exciting and rewarding. An employer might tell you to keep doing things the same way, but the real rewards come to those who streamline and strategize. To think outside of the box, you sometimes need to ditch the old box.

3. When you become a fearful leader

I've lived this one. I'm guilty of resisting change in leadership, and it's one of the reasons I had a hard time with the role. Fear creeps in. As leaders, we sometimes resist change because we don't want to make anyone upset or we fear we might make a mistake. I've seen good leaders who never aspire to greatness because they never want to challenge anyone with a new idea, they never want to try something new, and they only trust what has worked in the past. Managers who resist change are the ones who can't seem to recognize that everything around them has taken on a different full-color attitude, but they're still seeing things in black and white.

Published on: Jul 7, 2016
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