“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.” – Sir Roger Bannister.
On May 6, 1954, approximately three thousand spectators gathered at Iffley Road Track in Oxford, England, where winds up to twenty-five miles per hour began to subside just before the start of the event.
The race was historic, and the BBC commentator, Harold Abrahams of Chariots of Fire fame, took his time announcing that Roger Bannister had cracked the myth of the four-minute mile, winning the race in 3:59.4.
What was once deemed impossible has now become commonplace. Jim Ryan, who held the world record at 3:51.1 from 1967 to 1975, commented, “I’m surprised that so many have done it. In another way, I’m not. Time has proven that barriers like the four minute mile, the 16 foot pole vault and the 60 foot shot put were able to be surpassed with better training, better nutrition and a better understanding of what we were doing.”
Of course, most of us would place a high pole vault squarely in the realm of personally impossible, and, fortunately, that’s not likely to hold us back at the office. Yet every organization has its own version of “don’t even think about it” barriers, and like the world’s most celebrated athletes, we get nowhere if we allow ourselves to be daunted by them. Not everyone has it in him or her to set the new world’s record for the company transformation. However, by working together, people can effect positive and long-term change. Remember, when any part of a system changes, the whole system begins to change. And just like the four-minute mile, new ways of communicating, relating, and behaving at work can quickly go from impossible to improbable to commonplace. Yet before the new way becomes commonplace, expect to enter the “funhouse” of pure, intoxicating, and dizzy-making change.
There is a technique I teach in Total Leadership Connections™ that teaches how to Observe, Understand and Transform not only your own patterned behaviors, but to be able to see the patterns in others and how those patterned behaviors which are learned in our family organization, are affecting the work environment. This is the first step to making change.
It’s one thing to “own you stuff” or talk with one or two colleagues; it’s another order of magnitude to help change the dynamics that exist within the culture of the larger company. This is leadership at its best, and it takes a keen understanding of change and a steady hand to traverse the “chasm of chaos” inherent in the change process.
Taking on the role of change agent is not a task for the faint of heart; you have to be a risk taker to be a powerful leader and overcome barriers for change.