…taking the wardrobe lesson to the corporate world
In life, moments of change are inevitable, ushering in growth, setbacks, or fluctuations. Such periods test our endurance, resilience, and adaptability. This concept is universal, transcending the boundaries of personal experiences and finding profound relevance in the corporate world.
As professionals, we are often caught in the tight grip of fluctuations, grappling with their disruptive influence on our meticulously orchestrated routines. However, during an insightful personal journey through the experience of bodily weight fluctuations, I discovered a new perspective on dealing with changes in our professional life.
Body Weight Fluctuations: A Metaphor for Professional Challenges
A while back, my body started fluctuating in weight, subsequently affecting my clothing choices. I was torn between waiting for my body to revert back to its ‘normal’ size to fit into my clothes or alter my clothes to accommodate my changing size. In some instances, my garments didn’t have enough room for adjustment, forcing me to decide between discarding them or keeping them in anticipation of future fit.
During this period, I found solace and guidance in a nugget of wisdom I had often dispensed during my image coaching sessions: “Dress for the body type you have now, not for the body you want.” Taking my own advice to heart, I adapted some of my clothes to fit my current body size, while others, incapable of adjustment, were given away. I also made provisions for possible future changes.
Through the lens of introspection, I realized this personal journey offered a powerful metaphor for our professional lives. Often, we meticulously tailor our careers and businesses for great seasons, all the while neglecting to accommodate the inevitability of fluctuations.
Navigating Corporate Fluctuations: Lessons from the Wardrobe
In the corporate world, much like my wardrobe, we often strive to ‘fit’ into roles, responsibilities, and routines, with little thought given to the possibility of adjustments. We tread the waters of our professional lives seamlessly when conditions are favorable, but when we encounter unexpected fluctuations, the status quo is challenged. These fluctuations could arise from market dynamics, organizational changes, personal setbacks, or even global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.
In such scenarios, we are faced with two choices, mirroring my wardrobe predicament. Do we attempt to force ourselves to fit into the existing conditions, straining against the tightness of the unfamiliar? Or do we alter our approach to better suit the new situation?
Certainly, many leaders have faced and navigated through significant fluctuations, applying principles similar to those outlined above. They are testament to the fact that these principles are not theoretical constructs but proven strategies for resilience and growth. Let’s take a closer look at three such leaders:
- Howard Schultz, Starbucks
Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, provides an excellent example of how embracing fluctuations and making strategic alterations can revitalize a company. During the 2008 financial crisis, Starbucks was hit hard, and its future was uncertain. However, instead of panicking or trying to force the old business model to work in new, adverse conditions, Schultz took a different approach.
Schultz recognized the changing market conditions and made significant alterations to the Starbucks business model. He temporarily closed hundreds of stores for retraining, improved the quality of the products, and emphasized customer experience more than ever. He made these changes even though they were costly in the short term, believing in their long-term benefit. Schultz’s alterations paid off, and Starbucks rebounded to even greater heights after the crisis.
- Mary Barra, General Motors
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors (GM), has also demonstrated the power of creating room for alterations and accommodating growth. With the automotive industry increasingly shifting towards electric and autonomous vehicles, Barra has guided GM to embrace these changes rather than resist them.
Under her leadership, GM has committed to investing heavily in electric vehicles, autonomous technology, and even ridesharing platforms. While these moves require significant alterations to GM’s traditional business model, they ensure that GM is preparing for future changes and positioning itself for growth in the evolving automotive landscape.
- Satya Nadella, Microsoft
Satya Nadella’s transformation of Microsoft serves as another powerful testament to these principles. When Nadella took over as CEO in 2014, Microsoft was struggling to keep up with the rapidly evolving tech industry. Its core business model, centered around Windows, was under threat due to the rise of mobile computing.
Embracing these fluctuations, Nadella did not stick to the old ways but opted to make room for alterations. He shifted Microsoft’s focus to cloud computing and AI, and encouraged a growth mindset within the company, marking a significant cultural shift. Under his leadership, Microsoft has not only survived but has become one of the world’s most valuable companies, demonstrating the benefits of flexibility and forward-thinking in times of change.
These leaders exemplify the application of our principles in real-world settings. Their actions underscore the importance of embracing fluctuations, making room for alterations, and accommodating growth in times of change. Now, let’s move on to the recommendations that we can derive from these stories and the personal insights I shared earlier.
Drawing from my personal experience and the insights it offers, here are four recommendations for navigating through challenging phases at work:
- Embrace the Fluctuations
Just as with body weight fluctuations, it’s crucial to acknowledge that changes in the professional landscape are natural and, in many cases, unavoidable. Renowned psychologist Carol Dweck’s research on mindset supports this idea. Her studies highlight the distinction between a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset.” Those with a growth mindset view challenges and setbacks not as damning impediments but as opportunities for growth and learning. By adopting this mindset, we can reduce the frustration often associated with changes and focus instead on adapting to new conditions.
- Create Room for Alterations
When the fit feels tight and uncomfortable, it might be beneficial to consider alterations rather than squeezing into an unyielding situation. This concept resonates with a report published in the Harvard Business Review, which emphasizes adaptability as a critical skill in the modern business landscape. In our volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, professionals who can adjust their strategies, methods, and mindsets swiftly are more likely to thrive.
- Make Provisions for Future Changes
Much like my wardrobe overhaul, it’s imperative to make provisions for future shifts in our careers or businesses. This approach resonates with a report from McKinsey & Company on the future of work. The report underscores the importance of “reskilling” and “upskilling” to remain relevant in an increasingly automated and digitized job market. Therefore, investing time in continuous learning, professional development, and expanding your skill set could be invaluable insurance against future uncertainties.
- Accommodate Growth
Finally, alterations should not be viewed merely as a defensive reaction to setbacks or challenges. They should also be seen as a proactive strategy to accommodate personal and professional growth. This perspective aligns with Jim Collins’s concept of “Level 5 Leadership.” The renowned business leader and author argues that the most effective leaders are those who continuously learn, grow, and evolve, leading their organizations to new heights of success.
Just as our bodies change and evolve, so too does the corporate world. It is an ever-dynamic ecosystem, marked by peaks and valleys. By embracing fluctuations, creating room for alterations, preparing for future changes, and accommodating growth, we can shift our perception of these fluctuations. They can move from being sources of stress and frustration to platforms for adaptation, evolution, and even innovation.
Through understanding and applying these principles, we can transform our approach to our professional journey. By navigating challenges with a mindset geared toward growth and resilience, we can not only survive the winds of change but also harness them to reach new heights. Remember, it is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change. So embrace the fluctuations, make the necessary alterations, and set yourself up for success, no matter the situation.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Soft Skills Expert, Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Soft Skills Expert and Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.
She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.