The Wizard of Oz – A lesson in change and navigating uncertainty

How many people are feeling like over the last few months they’ve been transported from the comfort and stability of home to an unknown world via a tornado of global events? I would imagine that’s pretty much everyone. The good news is that if we all get on the yellow brick road, navigate the obstacles with speed, efficiency and a solid, capable team, we can find some answers, get to a great place and learn a few things along the way.

The Wizard of Oz is actually a story about agility….underpinned by trust and overflowing with optimism. Dorothy didn’t buy a ticket to go to Oz. She didn’t plan to kill a witch and she didn’t plan to have a trio of misfits (who were actually quite awesome in their own right and just needed the right leader to bring out the best in them) tagging along for the journey. What Dorothy did have though, was an eternal optimism about where she wanted to be when she found herself surrounded by uncertainty. What she did have was the ability to be nimble, resourceful and focused. And what she did do, was surround herself (unbeknownst at the onset), with an amazing team who possessed all of the right qualities needed in times of crisis: strength and integrity (The Lion), empathy and compassion (The Tin Man), courage and resilience (The Scarecrow). So what can we take away from this childhood favorite and apply to our own organizations amidst crisis and an uncertain landscape? Tons. Agility matters, the right people matter, a clear why that is meaningful to everyone matters and a strategy (or two or three)…that matters a lot.

There are a few things that we as leaders can do to rise above trying times but they require an appetite for change. The reason we are often resistant to change (and why so many change initiatives fail) is because change challenges our memory, which is what we tap in to for decision making. When we can’t reach into our minds to find answers, to find what we already know and find comfort in, our brains start firing off neurons throwing us into survival mode – it’s the fight or flight theory. But we all have the capacity to change. From a pure physiological standpoint, our bodies undergo incredible and amazing changes daily. Change is all about forming new mental habits and then practicing them incessantly so they become easier and more palatable to adopt. As we end another week, let’s look toward next week as another opportunity to get on the yellow brick road and make our way to a new, different and better place.

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