It feels great when you achieve a goal that you set yourself. All your hard work and effort is finally worthwhile; you can celebrate success and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Yet it doesn’t always feel like that.
The path to that success is often strewn with obstacles – some of your own making, unexpected challenges and maybe a few difficult individuals who are determined to ambush you along the way.
The Tour du Mont Blanc
Earlier this year I completed a 330km cycle event spanning three countries in the heart of the Alps. By anyone’s standards this is a long way to ride in one day, but when it includes 8000m of ascent and extreme weather from scorching heat to torrential thunderstorms, you begin to appreciate the magnitude of The Tour du Mont Blanc.
The difficulty of the challenge made the successful outcome all the more satisfying, but there were dark moments when it felt like the suffering would never end. That was when belief in my goal, recognition of my past hard work (6 months of intense training) and a determination to succeed were really needed.
Pete, my partner in this crazy endeavour, later admitted that he seriously considered giving up, especially when another competitor expressed doubts about their ability to finish before the cut-off time.
Luckily for Pete it wasn’t long before he reached the next checkpoint/feed station where he was met by my wife who was providing support for us on the day. She pointed out how far he had already come, dispelled his doubts and (in the nicest way possible) told him to “get on with it!”
You can find the same situation at work
When your organisation sets out on a culture change journey, most people recognise that it won’t always be plain sailing; there will be pitfalls and setbacks along the way. And some way down the line, when things seemingly haven’t improved much, it’s easy to get disheartened. There may also be well-poisoners sniping from the sidelines, revelling in your lack of obvious success.
This is the time to dig-in: remember your ultimate goal and remind yourself that the end really does justify the means.
Culture change, like any change, tends not to be a linear process. Improvements come slowly at first but momentum gathers, success breeds further success until you reach a tipping point and the rate of change shifts up a gear.
At this point, with the finish line in sight, you’ll discover renewed energy and enthusiasm and the negative voices will fade away.