Don’t be afraid to embrace change

A new year often brings new beginnings. I was intrigued to discover how one company used a novel way to motivate employees to think about new ways of doing things.

Here is the approach practiced by Chiyoji Misawa, who founded the largest homebuilder in Japan, Misawa Homes, more than 50 years ago. He “died” at least once every decade to combat the solidification of outmoded methods and thinking. He sent a memo to his company that formally announced “the death of your president.”

According to Robert H. Waterman Jr. in his book “The Renewal Factor,” this was Misawa’s way of getting his company to question everything. When his employees would resist change, Misawa would declare: “That was the way things were done under Mr. Misawa. He is now dead. Now, how shall we proceed?”

I was particularly interested in this novel idea because so often the resistance to major changes starts at the top.

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Simply because things are sailing along, assuming that the winds won’t change is dangerous business.

Being a great leader is not always about becoming an expert at everything – it’s really about knowing where to find knowledge and expertise when you need it. That’s where Misawa’s genius was most evident: knowing how to solicit input and gain perspective from his own connections.

In turn, he encouraged his workforce to learn how others approach new markets, revamp processes and resolve problems. Giving his employees the opportunity to offer their suggestions served several purposes: acknowledging their value to the company, encouraging them to think ahead and teaching them not to be afraid of change.

Change is inevitable, and those who embrace it are more likely to have staying power.

New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on areas we know need a change. Make those resolutions too general or too sweeping, and chances are they will be your resolutions year after year. Alan C. Freitas, president of Priority Management, recommends you write resolutions/goals that are SMART:

Specific – Decide precisely what you want to achieve, and by when;

Measurable – Know what a successful outcome would look like;

Attainable – Make your goals challenging but achievable;

Relevant – Address areas of your work and life that are really important to you;

Trackable – Figure out how you’re going to gauge your progress.

Getting into the right mindset to make changes, large or small, takes some motivation.

Figure out why you want to achieve the goal. Make a list of all the ways you will benefit from achieving it. Whether it’s a personal goal, such as finishing a degree, or a professional change, such as breaking into a new market, you need to understand why it will be worth it to make a change.

Then analyze exactly where you are now in reaching that goal: the strengths that will help you, the weaknesses that could hurt you and the opportunities you can use to attain what you want.

Next, you must determine what you’ll need to invest to achieve your goal. Whether it’s time, money or something else, know what reaching this goal could “cost” you. If it’s important enough to you, sacrifices will pay off in the end.

Do your research. You may need to master new abilities to fulfill your resolution. You don’t want to start something you are not committed to finishing.

Look for support from family, friends, co-workers, managers or organizations that can help you. The more people who you share your resolutions or goals with, the more likely you will be to follow through on them.

You will have more success if you set deadlines for achieving your goals and resolutions. List specific dates on which you want to complete various steps of the plan.

Finally, resolve to make it a happy new year!

Mackay’s Moral: You don’t have to “die” like Misawa to bring your dreams to life.

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com.