Digital transformation starts with the leaders' change and commitment to lead the journey. Many leaders feel they are drowning with different alternatives, solutions, and pressures. Many feel it is so overwhelming that they may shut down, take a position of wait and see for their competitors, or where the storm carries them.
For leaders to succeed in their transformation efforts, for themselves, for their companies, and for and their teams, they must decide choose fear or courage? Here is what I would ask you to ponder, the fear of making the change and failing versus the consequences of not making the change and losing the opportunities to have a future.
Let’s talk about fear, it is quite common, and we have heard and known about it since before we were born. Some people feel comfortable acknowledging it, and some will not admit it, some will decide to confront it, some to run. The term 'fight-or-flight' represents the choices that our ancient ancestors had when faced with danger in their environment. They could either fight and deal with a threat or flee to run away to safety. In either case, the physiological and psychological response to stress prepares the body to react to the danger.
Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat. Bravery is a courageous behavior or character. Bravery does not mean having any fear; it means feeling the fear and having the courage to do it anyway. You can't be brave without fear. If you weren't afraid, you wouldn't have to be brave. Nelson Mandela, who represents the epitome of being courageous, had one of the best definitions of courage “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”
The types of fear that inhibit our progress in the digital transformation space are:
1. Fear of repercussions. Many leaders get concerned about the future of work and what the impact for the people will be. There are many actions a company can take to manage this issue and see it as an opportunity to upskill and reskill the workforce to give them the new required skills and get them ready to perform differently and continuously better.
2. Fear of criticism. Given the amount of pressure that gets put on leaders to do the transformation, one of the main concerns for them is how much criticism will they get if things do not result "as planned." Moreover, the reality is that facing criticism is part of being a leader. John Maxwell says, remove the YOU from failure, achievers do not see themselves as the failure and don't take things personally, they look at their options, and bounce back.
3. Fear of failure. Digital transformation is scary because technology is changing at an unprecedented pace, there is pressure for companies to "just do it," investment is needed, and the workforce must have the necessary skills. It is essential to be willing to experiment, fail, re-adjust, and try again. Maxwell says to learn a new definition of failure, "failure is part of the equation to achieve success." If we embrace that definition, we are more willing to move ahead.
4. Fear of responsibility. Fear of failure stops progress and makes us reluctant to accept responsibility for things that take us out of our comfort zone. Taking responsibility for the necessary actions to move forward gives us the courage to make progress and reduce anxiety.
5. Fear of communicating. At the top of the charts, when it comes to the fear's hierarchy, communication is essential to leadership, and more so when envisioning a significant transformation. A leader championing a digital transformation needs to communicate the vision, the strategy, and plan to engage the organization and get their buy-in. Important to note, communication is not only about speaking; it is about listening, actively listening.
Digital transformation is all about how each leader and person in the organization shows up. Starting from the top of the company, a conviction that digital is the way to transform the business. The first step is for each leader to go through a transformation themselves – that is where the uncomfortable feelings are, and this is what I've learned; it is the secret sauce. It is one of the reasons why many companies have not decided to embark on the journey or have not been successful at it. A company can have a mandate from the board of directors, an edict from the CEO, or a line on the earnings calls that says – we are doing a digital transformation. If the leaders are not engaged to learn and embrace what it takes from them to make it happen, it will not happen.
How to choose courage over fear to lead digital transformation
For a leader to acknowledge that digital transformation is a business imperative, the first realization is that there needs to be a personal transformation that precedes it. There are four phases that a leader should navigate to be ready to lead the process.
A leader needs to be vulnerable by acknowledging the fear, find ways to take action to reduce stress, and seek the appropriate support. Consider the following questions: what should I/We start doing? What should I/We stop doing? What should I/We do differently?
A leader needs to gain the knowledge to become a believer in digital transformation; this is where continuous learning plays a significant role for the leader to dream what is possible and make the decision to act. A leader also needs to evaluate all the activities, initiatives, and programs that the organization has. Consider the following questions: what should I/We keep?, what should I/We eliminate? What should I/We combine? What should I/We delay?
A leader needs to communicate, communicate, and communicate; get involved in the change, and be willing to run tests experiments and have the patience not to expect immediate results. Consider the following questions: What options do we have? What would be the best experiment to run? What potential obstacles will we face? What do we expect to accomplish? How will we measure success?
A leader needs to measure the results to celebrate victories and appreciate failures. It is imperative to capture the lessons to be learned and make the necessary adjustments. Consider the following questions: what did we learn? How do results compare to expectations? What needs to be adjusted? How will we replicate this experience?
The final question is, do YOU choose fear or courage?
I dedicate my services to engage as a collaborative partner to help leaders and organizations figure out how to be successful in the process of digital transformation. Moreover, navigate through an unprecedented amount of complexity and speed of change of industry 4.0 technologies.
I assist by assessing and facilitating the readiness of the leaders who will define the course of the transformation and the workforce who are the ones to adopt the technologies so that the benefits get realized.
Because of my multiple commitments, I will be changing my article writing frequency from weekly to twice a month.
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