Change and Stability

Columns - Guest Column

Industry leader Mike Jones explains how this unlikely duo must exist together in a healthy working relationship for your snow op to sustain success.

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October 8, 2021

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When was the last time you heard stability mentioned as an important business topic? Perhaps it’s considered a given or taken for granted, but rarely do we hear it called out as a bedrock theme of business or life.

Stability is neither sexy nor fashionable.

We are so used to having stability in the United States that we do not even see it as something unique in our day-to-day experience, even if we understand intellectually that much of the world lives in instability. We expect it. Stability in United States operates in the background, much like the air that we breathe or streetlights coming on at night to light up our roadways.

Consider the pandemic we have found ourselves in. For the first time in a long time, we suddenly realized that so much of our well-being, happiness and even survival depends upon the stability of our country’s supply chains. Toilet paper anyone? Today, many people are considering setting up some ability to live independently or off grid, sensing our infrastructure’s fragility, not because of a major war or invasion, but an outbreak of a virus.

For some, the idea of stability may seem to be the antithesis of growth, flying in the face of the idea of the “next big thing”, evolutionary progress or getting to the next level. Who would grab a book off Amazon about the importance of stability?

Mike Jones

It’s always a good idea to push pause and think more deeply about such topics, especially when it’s something so essential, but that is rarely consciously considered since it is such a staple. In life and business, how often is it that things that you don’t consider or take for granted are the very ones that end up kicking you in the keister when you least expect it?

A casual googling of the word In Merriam Webster includes such ideas as the strength to stand or endure: FIRMNESS. The property of a body that when disturbed from a condition of equilibrium or steady motion to develop forces or moments that restore the original condition.

Consider for a moment the countries that are the most prosperous in history have become so, largely because of the stability they created in their country and culture. What happens when governments are unstable? What is the effect when the power grid goes off and on in Africa? What does it do to the human psyche when food and other personal resources are scare? How would you view your life and work if you had to wait in lines for 6-8 hours just to get fuel for your vehicle? Some do.

I would submit that a government’s primary role and main objective is to create stability. I would also assert that most prosperity happens in stable governments, organizations and individuals. What are the primary elements needed for a third world country to flourish? Stability is at the top of the list.

Does stability mean that you always keep things the same or that we do not change or evolve? Of course not. The success stories in history are of countries that are both stable and progressive. In fact, you can argue that those nations that adapt, who are resourceful, and change are those who actually thrive and take the lead in any given era of history.

This is also true in organizations, including yours. Clearly, it’s important to be simultaneously open to change and stable.

Stability is the very platform on which real, meaningful and sustainable change can occur. So, this begs the question, “How do we maintain stability in our organization, while also embracing change that is needed for developmental growth in almost every area?”

These are great questions and concepts to consider. First, let’s consider the things that create stability. These are things I would define as the foundation of an organization.

You have to have a “stickiness” in your organization where your team can be firm around your mission, values, ethics, policies, processes and communication strategies. In fact, your ability to incorporate healthy change is directly dependent upon your ability to create a strong foundation. It’s important to clearly define that which is static organizationally and that which is variable.

If these static or stable aspects of your company are not in writing, used in training, applied situationally, discussed in meetings and generally part of your culture’s DNA in a tangible way, you will have a hard time getting your team to readily adapt to the variability of change. Again, why is this the case? It’s because people need stability in their lives to handle the change. It’s a part of who we are as a species.

In fact, most people in any organization have a low tolerance for change and adopt it way more slowly than upper management. Why is that? First, they are usually the ones most impacted by the change upper management dictates. Second, most of your team never have been or will be entrepreneurs, because the majority are risk and change adverse. Third, change of any kind means less control, even if it is only for a time and most people like a sense of control over their lives and outcomes.

In my 30-plus years management experience, I have found that most people do not handle change well. It’s the 5 percent or less in an organization who are agents or advocates for change. They are the leaders who thrive on it, expand their capacities to embrace it and utilize change to grow their business and themselves.

The vast majority of the people (around 95 percent) in your organization crave stability. Regardless of who you are everyone needs stability at some level.

Here is the eye-popping reality. The most change can be gained from within a stable environment, as opposed to an unstable one. I run into so many entrepreneurs, including myself in the mirror at times, who somehow believe that change can be accomplished all on its own without consideration of stability to create a dynamic tension.

The static stability of your organization is directly equal to your ability to effect variable change. Again, these are held in dynamic tension with your organization squarely in the middle.

If you are in a constant state of change as an organization and do not create a stable environment for 95 percent of your organization, then you lose the ability and credibility to bring about real meaningful change that is a necessity for your company to thrive.

Self-awareness is a very important trait for an entrepreneur to possess. It took me probably a decade to realize that I was uniquely able to handle a great deal of change simultaneously. I had to learn to accept that most people do not have that same capacity and should not be faulted for it.

Going forward, take time to critically analyze your organization’s stability with your team and assess if your foundation is strong within your organization. Be sure you are vigorously communicating in a balanced way those things that are static along with those things that you believe need change. Finally, recognize and reward both the static and variable elements of your company equally. Give bonuses for living out your values, as well as driving sales.

A frequent Snow Magazine contributor, Mike Jones is the owner of True North Outdoor headquarterd in Kansas City and a 2014 Leadership Award recipient.