People Power - April 2013
By Scott Humphrey
If you are a faithful reader of People Power, you will recall that I have often spoken about change. Moving from where we are to where we want to be always involves making changes. Having just made one of the most difficult decisions and important changes of my life, I have discovered that change can be difficult. Sure, we all want to alter things about ourselves, our jobs, our spouses, and even our kids, and it’s easy to talk about making those changes or to encourage someone to modify their own life. But actually putting this into practice, enacting a meaningful transformation, is quite difficult. This has become very clear to me recently.
With that in mind, I feel that an apology is in order. To all of you who I have led to believe that change is as simple as taking the next step, I apologize. To all of you who read my articles and believed that change was somehow easy for me personally, I apologize. To all of you who have struggled to make much needed changes in your businesses and lives and sought compassion and understanding as you contemplated the weight of those changes, I apologize. Real change, no matter how desirable the outcome, is never a simple thing.
In this article I would like to share some new insight on change, insight gained from my decision to resign as director of the Shaw Flooring Network, a great job with a world class organization with which I have worked for 25 years, and become the CEO of another highly respected organization, the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). It is my hope that you will use the knowledge gained from this decision to help you make the right choices in your own life and business.
The most difficult decisions are between two rights. Knowing right from wrong is not difficult for me. I may not always choose the right action, but I always know what I should do. On the other hand, choosing between two good options is very challenging. In my case, there was nothing wrong with staying at Shaw. I was secure. I had a phenomenal team around me. I was part of an amazing organization where I had been for over 25 years, and I was respected by my peers. This is the reason why I said no when a friend asked me if he could submit my name for the WFCA position. I wasn’t looking for a new position. I was happy. But, just to appease him, I agreed to look at the job description. The rest is history. I felt like it was written for me.
Here I was, about to turn 50, just having experienced the death of one of my best friends, Elbert Shaw, a man known for giving back. These events had me contemplating my legacy and where I could have the greatest impact over the remainder of my career. I wanted to give back to an industry that had invested in my life from the time my uncle and dad opened H.R.H. Rug back in 1970. From the job description, I knew this could be that opportunity.
Seek wise council. There are some decisions that I don’t feel qualified to make without seeking input from others. Knowing this was a decision that would impact not only my career but the rest of my life, I spoke with my family and several respected friends and colleagues. I sought out professionals I knew would steer me straight. Some of the best counsel came from Josh McGinnis, a personal friend who is a business and life coach. Josh has worked closely with me in the past, but more importantly, I knew he shared my faith. For me, of utmost importance was the knowledge that I was going in a direction that coincided with my faith. Josh counseled me to weigh feedback from two groups: those who knew me personally and spiritually and those who had a thorough understanding of my talents with regard to business and understood the challenges that I would face if I accepted the position with the WFCA. If these two groups agreed, he believed that I would know which path I should take.
The longer you take to make the decision, the more difficult the process will be on you and those around you. I remember speaking to a member of the Shaw executive team as I was going through the interview process. He cautioned me that the longer the process took, the more it would impact my job performance and the more strain there would be on my personal interactions. I remember thinking I could handle the pressure. I wouldn’t let it impact me. What I soon discovered was how wise he was. Before long, I wasn’t sleeping and that most certainly was impacting my performance and my patience with those closest to me. More time does not necessarily provide more clarity.
Fear alone is not a good reason for making your decision. Leaving a company that I had been with for 25 years, over half of my life, was a scary thing. The fact is, leaving any business or personal relationship can cause a great deal of fear, and that fear can and will compromise the integrity of your decision. It is very important to determine the focus of your fear. In my case, I began to realize that I wasn’t afraid of where I might be going. I was afraid of losing what I was leaving behind. As a relational leader, leaving my co-workers was like leaving my family. In the end, I realized that I didn’t fear my future nearly as much as I feared leaving my past. And as I have often said about the past, “You can learn back there, but you can’t live back there.” When faced with the option of staying for comfort’s sake or going for the opportunity to challenge myself and expand my reach, I pray that I will always have the courage to go.
The bottom line is this: change can be tough, but without change, there is no growth. Unless you are completely satisfied with where you are and with who you are, you must be willing to contemplate change in your personal and professional life. Enacting change may not require a move, as it did in my case. Often, change simply means learning and changing within your current environment. It means getting out of your comfort zone with the intent of performing at a higher level, freeing yourself from the rut where you find yourself entrenched.
I knew there would be some who would not understand my decision or would disagree with my choice. But, for me, the decision came down to three things. Where could I best utilize my God-given talents? Where could I have the greatest impact on the most people? Where could I create the most powerful and influential legacy?
I hope that you will embrace change and focus on being your best. Until you are willing to do so, you cannot expect others around you to make those difficult transitions in their lives. This world is full of people who call themselves leaders but don’t practice what they preach. Don’t be one of them. Set an example for your community, your employees and your family. Consider your options, seek wise council and take definitive action, defying your personal fears to make the changes that are best for you and those around you.
In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, one of America’s most courageous presidents, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows that great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Copyright 2013 Floor Focus