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April 17, 2012

Slow Down and Hit the RESET Button

Usually, I try to avoid making assumptions, but I’m going to go out on a limb and make a couple here. I think it’s safe to assume that for every time you’ve read an advice book, attended a seminar, or made a New Year’s resolution with the goal of improving some aspect of your life or work, the same burning question immediately crops up: How do I start?

You don’t have the slightest idea, so you make a thousand excuses for why you can’t move forward. Then you ask yourself another question:

Why isn’t change happening? The need for change is there. The intention to change is there. The knowledge necessary to make the change is there. But still, change doesn’t occur.

That’s happened to you at least one or two… or 30 times, hasn’t it? Of course it has, but let me assure you that you’re not alone. Most people and organizations find it difficult to change, even when they really want to. In fact, in his book “A Sense of Urgency”, John P. Kotter writes that 70 percent of organizational change initiatives fail. Seventy percent!

The failure rate is so high, not because people are unwilling to commit to change, but because they are unwilling to un-commit – to their need to be right or to past commitments that are no longer relevant. They aren’t willing to put it all on the table.

They do not understand that they have the ability to stop, to hit the reset button, and to begin anew.

In my experience, “reset” is the most powerful way to think about starting, moving forward, refocusing on a higher purpose, and to begin living a story that serves you, your team, your company, and your community. When Kotter says that 70 percent of change initiatives fail, it’s because most people don’t properly execute a reset. Reset, done correctly, leads to a zero percent failure rate.

What is reset? Reset is what you do to start a new chapter of being, a new vision, or a new story. It’s the willingness to lay it all on the line, and to do so enthusiastically and eagerly, not reluctantly or fearfully.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.”

Reset means to surrender and become vulnerable, to develop a case of amnesia about the past and any limiting beliefs, and to move forward into a new world order. You state in word and deed that you will not be dragged down by a past that isn’t serving you anymore. You declare a new set of terms for the path forward; terms that are ideally connected to your company’s story and to keeping your word.

Steve Lishansky, founder and president of Optimize International, an executive coaching and training firm, puts it this way: for reset to be effective, it must be applied to three different levels of leadership. It applies to you as a person. It applies to you as part of a team. And it applies to you as it relates to your company.

The day you make your word the bond of yourself, your team, and your entire organization, that’s the beginning of reset.

To launch a reset, you first have to go through the process as an individual. You have to decide to put everything on the table, to make tough decisions, and to put yourself in a position to grow regardless. There can be no sacred cows in your personal barn. Your willingness to reset has to be based on more than just self-interest. It must be centered on what’s best for your team, your company, your customers, and your community. This will work the same way with your team. You need to find common ground and gain agreement with them. As a team, you have to stay on point, stay true to your mission, and stay consistent with your story. Finally, you extend these concepts to your entire company.

Reset is about making a new verbal agreement with your people, your customers, and your community. It is a declaration that we’re all in this together. Let’s help each other get there. One way to make that declaration in a meaningful way is to help those who are less fortunate. Volunteering as a team gives all your constituents a fresh perspective about your organization. At entreQuest, we have “Give Back Days” in which we go out into the community and work together to create a positive impact. Instead of having a typical day-long quarterly retreat, we’ll have a day of serving the homeless, painting a school, or cleaning up a park – and then we have our quarterly retreat. The result? A reset team. A team that is more centered more focused, more cohesive, and ready to grow regardless.

A great example of reset is what Howard Schultz, chairman, president, and CEO of Starbucks, did in October of 2008. He had just returned to the Starbucks helm after having been out of the picture for eight years. The economic downturn was in full swing – and the company was reeling from it. Sales were plummeting. The gut-wrenching decision was made to close 600 stores and lay off scores of workers. And what did Schultz do in the midst of this crisis?

He took more than 10,000 of his managers and other employees to New Orleans to volunteer in the Hurricane Katrina rebuilding effort. How’s that for redirecting focus?

As he painted a house in one of the hardest hit neighborhoods, Schultz told reporters that given the tough economic times, he felt it was important for him and his company to reach out to their communities.

But it was not all about altruism – it was also good business. Schultz went on to say, “... Customers have many choices to make about all different types of products and services and a company that they trust, a company that has like-minded values to their own, is usually a company that they’re going to support.”

This reset in Starbucks’ philosophy and strategy provided a new platform for conversation – and for growth. Another excellent example of this is President Kennedy’s “man on the moon” speech in which he admitted that the United States was falling behind other world powers and stated his resolve to go all in on winning the space race. Without Kennedy’s reset and all the hard work that followed, we might still be looking longingly at the moon and wondering, “What if…?”

Yes, reset is a lot of work. And yes, the odds of achieving a desired change are not high. But you can do it – if you slow down and approach it logically, with firm resolve and reset before you start something new. Follow these steps, as laid out in the acronym RESET:

  • Recognize: Awareness is everything. You must be willing to admit there’s room for improvement.
  • Expose: Be willing to get to the core issue. Have candid conversations. Shine a light on the elephant in the room.
  • Surrender: Be vulnerable. Accept, acknowledge and apologize. Take full responsibility for the moment.
  • Empathize: Make sure the other people involved feel validated and valued.
  • Terms and Time Frame: Establish the new world order and a time frame for achieving it.

The process of reset reminds me of Chinese bamboo. Plant a bamboo sprout in the ground, and nothing happens for five years. You water and fertilize, water and fertilize – but there is no visible evidence that anything is happening. Then along comes year five, and the bamboo plant begins to grow…and grow… and grow…to a staggering 90 feet tall in a mere six-week period!

It seems incredible that a plant lying dormant for so long can suddenly explode with growth, but that’s what happens. People speak in awestruck tones about how the bamboo grew 90 feet in one year. No, it grew 90 feet in five years – we just couldn’t see all the good things going on beneath the surface. The same is true for organizations that are resetting their philosophy and culture. They are setting the unseen roots necessary for visible growth in the future.

You might be thinking, wow, this growth is going to take five years? It could. But figuratively speaking, if in five years your company had 90-foot tall relationships with your employees and customers, how bad would that be?


Joe Mechlinski is CEO of entreQuest. The preceding was an excerpt from his upcoming book, “GROW REGARDLESS: The Ultimate Guide to Building a Better Business and Community.” To receive notification of its release, e-mail This article was originally published in the Spring 2012 issue of The Partner Channel magazine. To see a copy of the printed version of this article, please click here.


Joe Mechlinski
About the Author

Joe Mechlinski

Joe Mechlinski is CEO and Co-Founder of entreQuest, where he's helped hundreds of companies prosper through some of the worst economic times in history. Joe's debut book, Grow Regardless, an instant New York Times bestseller, defines strategic growth, change management, and organizational development.

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