“To change the world, It starts with one step. However small, first step is hardest of all.” – Dave Matthews Band
Sometimes the only good change is no change. That always seems to be the attitude of most. Change is tough. It makes you feel uneasy. It lets fear creep in – something I talked about last week. Those who have the ability to make change are incredible to watch. But for most of us, the idea of change creates a sense of panic. After all, breaking habits is not an easy thing.
The opening quote is right in so many ways. That first step is always so hard. How many of you have committed to making a change, whether personal or work related, and spent the next minutes, hours, days, or weeks playing out the scenario in your head? You envision what it would be like after, yet when the time comes to begin, you can’t get yourself to do it. It’s like jumping off of the high-dive for the first time.
Change requires several components including strength, determination, and persistence. But today I want to talk about another key factor that makes change happen: trust.
Let’s flashback to somewhere around 2009. I was working for a state representative at the time as Chief of Staff, and it was my first week on the job. There was a HUGE meeting set with two federal agencies, a sitting Congressman, state agencies, and local officials about a particular project. The project was habitual in nature. Meaning it was safe, not necessarily impactful, and gave those an opportunity to smile, get a photo and cut a ribbon. Your cookie-cutter publicly funded project in our region.
Yet there was my boss, a person known for his stubbornness, attitude, and voice, challenging the status quo. He wouldn’t support it. From the outside he may have looked as an egotistical maniac trying to get his way, but what I quickly discovered was that he was trying to make change. He was doing it to break through the norms and create something his constituents and community would be proud of. He committed himself to something bigger. He was taking on the establishment headon. He trusted his instincts. And he trusted me.
And I gravitated towards that. I spent every minute that first week combing through federal regulations, ultimately finding an obscure statute that prevented utilizing those public funds for that particular project. Then, during a Friday morning meeting in a stuffy room full of suits, we dropped that bomb. The funds couldn’t be used as intended. It transformed a 30 minute meeting into a 3 hour barrage of insults, name calling, and confusion. But when the dust settled, he was right. We were right. The project was off the table. And there we were positioned with a fresh idea of how best to utilize the funds. To make an impact. To create change. These funds ultimately led to the foundation of three major projects that transformed a downtown.
Here I am over a decade later still thinking about that moment. I can replay that week and that day in my mind vividly. It was my first look at what it takes to make change. All it takes is one person – or taking that first step as Dave Matthews so eloquently put it. But for my money’s worth, the key ingredient to it all was trust. And it took trust on two levels.
First, my former boss had to trust himself. A job as an elected official forces you to be in the spotlight 24/7. You are measured by perception and results, where it’s always easier to keep the status quo. But he didn’t want that. He knew we could be better and he committed to doing that. He trusted his instincts and abilities. He managed to take that scenario that he constantly played out in his head and executed. When your job relies on support, he stood tall in a room that was heavily positioned against him and he never wavered. The trust he had in himself carried him through.
Second, he had to trust me. I literally just started, trying to figure out my email, what the job would entail, or where to even eat lunch and he dropped this on me. He trusted my ability to deliver for him. He bet on me and he won. That always stuck with me.
So now as COO at ENX2, and hired to make the right changes and decisions, I relate back to that week and that particular project. Breaking old habits is difficult, but once you see what’s on the other side or know that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train, you must commit yourself. More importantly, you must trust yourself AND your team. And that is this week’s “Lessons Learned”: Trust will help make the change you seek.
For myself, this is always tricky. As I’ve consistently noted, self confidence and anxiety are a constant struggle. I work hard each day on trusting myself and believing in myself. That trust needs to be there if I intend to meet the vision of our CEO and Founder Nicole Farber. I need to trust myself and my abilities, knowing that some days I’m going to get knocked down – sometimes really hard. But trust is demonstrated in getting back up and believing that a knockdown or setback is just a bump in the road. If I commit to myself, I can help get us to the other side.
Secondly, my former boss showed me how valuable it is to trust in employees, staff, and/or team. There is no doubt I have trust in our team. They are so incredibly talented, hard working, and just amazing people. But I have to get better in showing that trust to them. For ENX2 to go where we intend to go, we must have that trust and bond as a team. So starting this week, and for every week after, I need to be better at making sure the team knows that we (Nicole and I) trust in them, their abilities, their work, and their person to make the change we need and become the best company we can be.
My sister Shannon and I (along with several great friends – Doug, Carl, and Alana to name a few) had the good fortune of attending the famous Pearl Jam concert in Philly in April 2016, referred to as the “Ten Show.” That night, Pearl Jam played their entire debut album called “Ten” cover to cover – for the first time since, like, 1991. Right before they played the album’s final track “Release”, Eddie Veddar offered these comments: “Sometimes it just helps you get through because you can’t get around it, you don’t get over it, you don’t get under it, you gotta get through it.” Perfect words to mirror my thoughts today. For the record, probably the best concert I ever experienced – a memory my sister and I will always have together. Not only did we get the Ten album, but they played several covers including “Comfortably Numb” (Pink Floyd), “Throw Your Hatred Down” (Neil Young), and “Baba O’Riley” (The Who). From the pregame burgers and drinks at Monk’s, to the concert, and after-concert drinks at McGillin’s in downtown Philly with my brother, it was an incredible day. Such a great memory.