When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills. ~Chinese proverb
Are you enduring change? This week as part of my work I interviewed many donors for a nonprofit’s strategic planning process. These donors are typically leaders in their field, a number of them being CEOs. I asked several questions about the impact of COVID, mostly on how it may have altered their relationship with the nonprofit.
I gleaned some additional learning along the way. There was a distinct difference between those who told me about changes as the result of COVID that excited them (adapting to change), and those who were eager to return to the “old way” (enduring change).
One global CEO from the U.S. was sitting in his office in Switzerland and talked with me via Zoom. He expressed great enthusiasm for the future. He said that he will continue to have Zoom meetings because he would be able to cut his travel in half and significantly increase his productivity. He was clearly adapting and making the best of it.
Then there were those who were longing for the days of in-person meetings and face-to-face interaction. They were clearly enduring change through need need for virtual communication and would only suffer through it as long as necessary, and not a day longer.
Interestingly, if you’re thinking there was a correlation with age around this thinking, at least in my task to speak with these key donors/leaders that was not the case. In fact, if anything, it was the “more mature” leaders who were better at adapting to their new reality.
Are you enduring change or adapting?
This caused me to think about some of my other clients over the past six months. Some were in the midst of strategic planning projects when the COVID crisis hit and they just stopped. They focused on enduring COVID and surviving. While others launched new strategic planning efforts in the midst of the COVID uncertainty. They are adapting and moving forward.
Some of those who are enduring change are trying to build walls to protect their “old way” that they hope to return to “when this is all over.” And those who are adapting are enthusiastically building windmills. They are looking for what they can learn from COVID, and are seeking out ways that COVID has helped to make them better.
Questions Leaders Could Be Asking
In the winds of change, are you building walls (i.e., fearful interference) or are you building windmills (i.e., bold grace)? Here are a few questions that leaders could be asking while the wind is still blowing.
- What walls are we building during COVID that might be more harmful than helpful?
- In what ways is COVID doing us a favor by blowing down some of our old ways?
- It’s been six months, have we even built one windmill in that time?
- The wind is still blowing, what windmills should we be building, right now?
- Are we enduring the winds of change, or are we adapting to the winds of change?