How to Eat the Pie of Change: Slice 2, “Preserve”

02 September 2015

Last week we started talking about the Pie of Change, a concept that my consultant Marshall Goldsmith taught me. We examined the first slice, “Create”: The Fun One. The slice we are going to examine this week is the one where you have positive changes that you want to keep – the “Preserve” slice.

First, here is a quick recap on what these different slices of pie – representing the different options to consider when enacting behavioural change – mean:

  1. When there are positive things that you will need to change so that they can be introduced, these are things you “Create“.
  2. Positive things you already have in your life and are worth keeping are the things you need to “Preserve
  3. Negative elements of your life that you can change is where you need to “Eliminate
  4. Finally, the negative parts that must be kept for whatever reason is when you need to “Accept

We talked about “Create” in the last blog post, where I explained how that slice is the fun slice – the one that excites most business owners. It is the slice where you get to choose the parts of yourself or business that you want to make better and go on a journey of self-improvement. That always feels good.

This week, we talk about the next slice…

Slice 2, “Preserve”: The Inconspicuous one

Where Create is the fun and exciting slice of pie, the Preserve slice is the less obviously delicious one. While the filling is still quite scrumptious, it does not look so special on first glance. However, you soon realise, this is one of the most fulfilling parts of this whole behavioural change exercise. To most of my business executive clients – to most successful people – the words “change” and “preserve” sound like opposites. In a sense, they are.

But preservation of what is already going well is a critical component in changing to do even better. This is not something that most successful people do or even think about on a regular basis. As I mentioned before, the Create slice gets business owners excited. The very same instinct and passion that gets them excited about that slice is what seems to reduce the flavour of the Preserve slice of pie.

Change Your Preservation Mind-Set

Most business owners with thriving businesses believe that their success was built by constantly improving themselves. If they come to a fork in the road and one side leads to being great and the other fork leads to being even greater, they will take the latter fork every time. The risk with this mode of operation is that when you chase greater, you can accidentally leave behind some of the really desirable things that you have already created.

The most common problematic mind-set I have encountered in my years helping organisations grow is when business leaders believe that preservation is equated with stagnation. Instead, you should think of preservation as reinforcement of positive elements – of sustaining stability – so that as you enact other changes you do not lose those good qualities. I was recently talking to a friend who wanted my advice as a business consultant. She runs a small cafe and was having difficulty with the new branch she had opened. “Customer feedback is saying that the quality of my signature French toast at the other store is inconsistent.” Asking her a few questions I quickly realised that my friend had opened her new cafe after a booming success of her first one, due to her unique way of making French toast. She thought expanding into a new area was the best way to generate quick growth, and had set it all up quite quickly to take advantage of the summer season.

However, in her new store, while she had hired some talented chefs and given them the menu, she had not directly trained them in how to make her very unique signature dish. You can see where I am going with this right?

She had not taken the steps to carefully preserve the part of her café that had created the greatest success and, as a result, had not succeeded as dramatically as she should have in her new location. I told her about the idea of learning from McDonalds, that I previously wrote about here. It is about creating systems for the parts of your business that work, and generating processes that allow those parts to continue running, while you focus your efforts on enacting change elsewhere.

The same thing goes for your personal, behavioural change. As you focus on creating new parts of yourself, make sure that you have systemised and reinforced the habits and behaviours that have brought you your success.

Your Action Point

Eating the preservation slice is actually one of the most rewarding and touching exercises that I do with my clients. If you are considering taking steps to change things and become greater, first look back at what you have already accomplished. Take a close look at your business and write down one thing that you and your employees do really well.

It might be having a fantastic company culture and how everyone interacts and helps each other. It might be a particular product that is the absolute best on the market. It might be the way your customer loyalty is earned through immaculate support. It may be difficult to pin down just one, but I urge you to choose just one thing.

Write it down on a post-it note and stick it up on the wall near your desk. Remind yourself every day that that needs to be preserved – because it is that one thing that will be worth keeping, no matter what else happens.

Next week, we take a look at one of the more difficult pieces of the pie to swallow: Eliminate. Click here to read it.

If you would like to discuss any of the points covered here, please feel free to request a free call below.

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