Moving from Success to Transformation: Driving Better Performance
The metaphor of crossing the Rubicon comes from Roman history when Julius Caesar decided to cross the river Rubicon with the words " Alea iacta est," which means "the die is cast." He had made a decision to return with his legions to Rome. That meant war. Once he entered the Roman heartland across the Rubicon, there was no alternative and no way back. In the same way, managers are able to achieve the impossible only when they are able to harness the power of their will, that is, only when they make this personal crossing of the Rubicon. The journey from "I would like to" to "I will" and happens in three phases: forming the intention, crossing the Rubicon, and protecting the intention.
The first phase of intention formation is triggered by the perception of an opportunity. The necessary requirement of intention formation is the confidence to experiment and struggle with ideas, and the courage to dream. Gradually the ideas become more concrete in the thoughts of the managers.
When the second phase starts, which is the process of crossing the Rubicon, managers must deal with the anxiety that choice and responsibility inevitably create.
After crossing the Rubicon, the third phase is crucial. The intention protection is difficult, as there are distractions and it requires careful management of personal emotions.
To keep going amid uncertainties, determined managers must protect their belief in themselves and push the organization to perform better to achieve transformation. But how do we do this? Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein have demonstrated that it is possible to give a nudge in the right direction through their work and I encourage everyone to read "Nudge" and see the blog.
Another aspect of evolution that I want to talk about is the need to "let go" as we manage growth at Affinity Express. All of us have to develop our people and give them challenges. We must coach them and make them ready for taking on more, which frees us to do better things for the company. This is difficult and therefore we have to develop a culture of mentoring, constantly looking over team members' shoulders, nudging them to think differently and making them ready to handle greater challenges.
To do this successfully and be free to transform, managers have to "let go." I will give you another analogy here. The way people in South India catch a monkey is a fairly simple trick. The villagers create a small cage with enough of an opening for the hand of the monkey to go through. Inside the cage they put a ball of rice. A monkey comes along and, spotting the food, puts its hand into the cage. The problem is, while holding the ball of rice, the hand obviously cannot come back out. All the monkey has to do is drop the ball of rice to escape. But in his panic as villagers come to catch him, he keeps holding the rice and gets caught. The fact is if he "let go" of the rice, he would be free. Many of us make this mistake, in business and in relationships: we hold on too hard to something because we are foolish, or stubborn. And we miss out on something that is much more important. A handful of rice is a sorry exchange for freedom.
To put it in more poetic terms: once you let go you are free.