“Change is really hard and we don’t talk enough about that. It’s hard because we are human. But nothing changes unless people change,” says Steve Vamos CEO of Xero.
With more than 30-years of experience in the tech sector including stints at Microsoft and Apple, Vamos has seen plenty of change in his day. While he suggests change is challenging, he insists that if you embrace change you will do well in life and business.
So why do so many of us resist change? According to Vamos, fear plays a factor.
“When we are hit with a change from an unexpected place, the first thing we do is fear it,” Vamos says. “The second aspect that can prevent us from changing is our past knowledge of success. As we go on our journey, that success and knowledge we have of our past journey become ingrained in us. It is our ego. And when I look back at so many tech companies that were great and then failed – the biggest killers are success.”
In today’s world of agile workplaces and digital transformation, learning to embrace change is vital. Yet Vamos insists when so many people have been bred in an environment where change is discouraged, it’s not as simple as you may think to go with the flow.
“The way I look at it there are three things we are generally encouraged when in a position of power: be in control, don’t make mistakes and know the answer. I would say most people in senior roles are control oriented, mistake adverse, know-it-alls. And there is nothing wrong with this type of thinking if it’s in an area where you don’t want change.
“We don’t want accountants to innovate on P&L and we don’t want safety officers changing procedure and innovating ad-hoc. But making mistakes is a fundamental element of success. In a changing world, you have no choice than to care, connect and enable others.
Try new things and be willing to fail. Mistakes are unavoidable when doing new things. There is not one thing you are good at that you didn’t get good at by making mistakes.”
It’s for this reason that Vamos suggests we need to move from a mindset of a “know-it-all to learn-it-all”.
“Stop, ask and listen,” he suggests. “This new way of thinking is not a new way of thinking… It’s simply that control-oriented change-adverse thinking has dominated the conversation instead of being connected and open to change.”
Vamos believes taking time out to reflect is integral to embracing change.
“We are so busy doing what we do and trapped in the every day we don’t get a chance to stop, pause and reflect. When you don’t spend time thinking about what you are doing. You just keep doing it instead of understanding the why then the how.
“In elite sports, coaching is fundamental in music having someone that gives you feedback is fundamental – in business, it will also go that way – we all need someone to take us out of the every day into the why and how.”
And it’s this why and how that Vamos suggests is the lynchpin that promotes change and drives success
“It’s a crazy, fast and wild changing world,” he says. “Knowing your why and your how is so important to your success.”