The Best Time to Change? Right Now!

Talent Management

February 4, 2008

by Marshall Goldsmith

As talent professionals adapt to the changing business environment and prepare for a “new kind of employee,” they’re considering how to completely transform their strategies around recruitment, retention, compensation, performance, training and pretty much every other people-related aspect within their organizations.

Their obsession with change might be justified. After all, the incoming group of employees is far more diverse, demanding and technically savvy than any that preceded it, and few question the need to somehow adjust to this dynamic generation’s needs.

And yet, there’s the issue of execution: What changes are necessary to accommodate the natives of this brave new world of work, and do we have the resources, time, energy and manpower to make them a reality?

As I’ve noted before, of the tens of thousands of businesspeople who have come to my lectures and classes, about 70 percent follow through on what they learn and actually do something about it. I am not ashamed of this number, which suggests a 30 percent noncompliance rate. To tell you the truth, I’m proud of the fact that fewer than a third of them don’t change anything – and I’m amazed the number isn’t much higher than that.

We have interviewed hundreds of people who have participated in my programs one year after they went through them. We ask the people who didn’t do anything why they did not live up to the commitments they made after they attended leadership training.

As far as I can tell, most of the people who do nothing aren’t any different as human beings than those who do change. They are no less intelligent. They often have the same values. Why, then, don’t they do what they promised themselves they would do?
The answer can be found in a dream. It’s a dream I have often, and you might have a similar one. It goes something like this:

“I am incredibly busy right now. In fact, I’m about as busy as I have ever felt. Some days, I feel overcommitted and just too exhausted to take on anything else. At times like these, my life feels like it’s out of control.

“But on the bright side, I’m working on some really interesting and special projects right now, and I believe the worst of this stressful time will be over in a few weeks or months. After that, I’ll take a couple of weeks off, get my life back in order, spend some more time with family and friends, and start working out. Everything is going to change soon, I promise. After that, it won’t be crazy anymore!”

Have you ever dreamed up a scenario that sounds vaguely similar to this? How long have you held on to this dream? How’s that working out for you?

Perhaps it’s time to stop dreaming of a time when you won’t be busy. Because – let’s face it – that time won’t ever come. It’s my dream, and yours. But it’s also a mirage – an oasis that forever rests on the horizon.

I have learned a hard lesson trying to bring about real changes, in people and organizations: There is no “couple of weeks” of pure downtime to get things in order. Just look at the trend line – calm and sanity do not prevail! There is a good chance that tomorrow is going to be just as crazy as today.

If you want to change anything about yourself, the best time to start is right now. Ask yourself, “What am I willing and able to change now, at this very moment?” then just do that.

That’s more than enough. For now.