Letting Go of the Monkey Bars

leadershipIn several recent discussions with clients and with the Emerging Leaders class I teach at the SBA, an interesting example of a type of blockage to change has come up. Change happens around us all the time, every minute of every day. But rather than embracing the change, most of us spend our time trying to keep things the same or preserve what we have, leading to all sorts of outcomes that don’t really serve us.

In business, it looks like this. You have a new opportunity that seems for all intents and purposes like it could be great for the company. But, (and there is always a but), it would require that you give up or change a current product line, process or client that you have been dependent on for years. You’ve developed an “attachment” to whatever it is and no matter how good this new idea or option is, the old one has you trapped.

The analogy I used in class was that it was like a kid on the monkey bars. You can’t move forward if you don’t let go of the bar in the back. Being stuck with one hand forward and one back is painful, especially if you decide to skip a bar and really go for it! The problem is unless you let go of the old, you are going to do one of three things: fall off, reach backward, or be stuck in the awkward in-between phase, which serves no one.

None of these is a good monkey bar strategy and none will work in business. We’re often so afraid of letting go of “what we know” or “what we have,” that we are afraid of moving forward and therefore will miss out on multiple opportunities. Businesses are not static, change is constantly happening in the marketplace and it’s a much stronger leadership position to choose your businesses’ direction consciously and proactively and make organizational changes as needed. The desire to hold onto the “known” is usually a strategy that will keep us in a no or low growth death spiral. Eventually landing on our backs in the sawdust staring up at the monkey bars wondering why that “safe” bar didn’t work this time.

You will need to let go of a lot of monkey bars as an entrepreneur, and it’s a good thing. You may not always grab the one you are reaching for successfully, but you will get back on and keep going until you reach the other side. Those businesses that got to “walk” to success vs crossing the monkey bars will never know how to repeat what happened. They often live in two states – fear that someone might find out they didn’t really do anything to make the success happen or a state of complete obliviousness that they were in the right place at the exact right time. It’s never replicable.

So whether it’s an outdated strategy, an employee you need to let go, a client or product line that is no longer profitable or serving the companies direction, let go of the monkey bar and move forward.

photo credit: At the playground via photopin (license)