Twenty years ago, a door opened. It was April of 2002 when I met our founder and my future business partner, Nyles Ayers, who took a chance on a me. I could feel the positive energy exuding from him as he told people he had a “hired a woman” to run the business. He could hardly contain himself. In his late sixties, he was much more evolved than his contemporaries who often assumed, before reading my business card, that I was his assistant, secretary, or in one particularly stunning case, his mistress. Sigh…
When I review my journal entries from those days, my inexperience and youth jump out. Youthful optimism was displayed in a constant list of ideas and goals to accomplish right away without any expectation of roadblocks or need to get buy-in. There are also many examples of inexperience that led to me speak before thinking or to step into drama, resulting in time spent undoing gaffs, missteps and moments of stunning – at times laughable – stupidity.
The Moso bamboo plant grows slowly – for more than a year – before there is any appearance above the soil, the focus being on root production underground. Then, it bursts through and grows up, quickly. If, during that time underground a tiller comes along, that could be the end for the plant. But if allowed to evolve slowly, the reward will be a strong, beautiful, resilient bamboo.
In thriving businesses, the leaders capable of growing the business can manage change with calm; they, too, are in a constant state of evolution, having spent time (in a metaphorical business soil) learning what to do more and less of. They are always learning and growing, aware of their strengths and weaknesses, while comfortable and supportive of those who work with them and bring a different skillset.
Stagnant or declining businesses are often filled with leaders whose skills have maxed out or are dormant, who believe they have evolved, who are their best right now. They often lead from an I am right perspective, looking forward to pontificating, preaching and sharing what they view as the only answer from the only person who has it.
Mindset evolution, I believe, is a key to business evolution. When the people are growing and evolving, the business will grow in parallel. Similarly, if people are stuck in their ways, resistant to change, or have an ‘I am fully evolved’ mindset, businesses will begin to decline. So how do you create a growth mindset organization? One way is to walk the walk, to share how and where you are energized to improve and share the stories, like that one of Nyles, which show that mindset is a choice.
Business evolution is a constant, the question is whether leaders are supporting improvements in mindset, processes and people or in stagnation, resistance and close-mindedness. We added personal development plans to our HR system so that it is easy to enter and review them. We want people know we are interested in their growth plans and to know that we want them to improve in a way that’s fun and easy. As they grow and evolve so will our business and our clients’ experience, resulting in us being able to attract more people who are on a constant quest for self-improvement.
– Becky Sharpe, President & CEO