You can transform anything, but not unless you can answer a few questions and understand the environment. Let’s start with a definition.

To transform means to make a marked change in the form, nature, or appearance of (Oxford Online Dictionary). If our goal is to transform ourselves, our work, our home, or anything, then something has to change.

Your best work sometimes requires something more dramatic, something transformational.

How to transform almost anything

Change that transforms does not happen without being willing to see something new. You can’t transform your backyard into a lush garden if you don’t have a picture in your mind’s eye.

I’m not always very good at imagining, but I am good at taking pictures of gardens and plants I like. Searching for gardening websites or visiting botanical gardens to get ideas provides insight and gives life to my vision.

I must overlook the current condition of my backyard and consider the possibilities of what can be. The soil, lighting, moisture, and how much time I want to invest in maintaining my garden all determine the result.

One fact I’ve learned the hard way. One cannot grow tropical plants that require shade and moisture in the blistering sun.

See the transformation—but know the context

These same principles apply if we want to transform our habits or workplaces.

The sticking point that I often see in organizations is that leaders know that something dramatic must change. They may have a clear picture of what the change should look like.

What’s missing? Context. Because we need to understand the system and processes that exist either by choice, by chance, or by inheritance.

Take the time to know and understand how things work. When we look at things differently, we enlarge our view to determine if we have the fertile ground ready for something new.

Four questions to ask yourself

Transformations, personal or organizational, benefit, and flourish with a bit of grit and openness. Dare to see your world from a new vantage point, but take the time to understand the ground around you. Ask some hard questions.

Are you ready to accept that what you are doing is not getting you where you want to be?

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
Henri Bergson

Whether or not we realize it, everything we do—all day—consists of routines and processes. I can complain about not losing weight. Until I stop to look at what I do or don’t do, nothing will change. If I refuse to transform my eating habits or add more physical movement to my day, then I’m not ready to transform myself.

Harder still are you ready to admit that something you designed is not working? You may have created the perfect process for addressing customer complaints.

As your team implemented the steps, they found gaps or flaws that often made dealing effectively with complaints worse. You must have the courage to take a step back and admit that the process needs further improvement.

Are you ready to address the possibility that you have not involved the right people?

“Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.”
—Ziad K. Abdelnour

I don’t always want to ask for help. Sometimes, I want to prove something to myself, and other times, my ego doesn’t want to admit I don’t know. Reaching out means putting my insecurities aside.

Who do you need on your team to support your transformation? Learning a new skill or starting a new position can make us feel incompetent.

I find novel ideas in the books and articles I read, but nothing compares to having a trusted coach or friend to challenge your thinking. They can often see into your blind spots.

In our work teams, having the right leaders and team members contribute to the success or failure of a project. Diverse ideas and the voices of those who interact across the workflow helps us see the bigger picture.

All work happens horizontally. If we remain in our silo, opportunities and obstacles remain undetected. Our best becomes limited by our narrowed view of the possibilities.

Are you ready to listen to know how other people see the problem and how to improve?“

“To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” ―Stephen R. Covey

We think we listen. Nodding your head and mumbling okay doesn’t always reflect active listening followed by reflection.

How many times have you seen people nod in agreement and then go back to doing things the same way or—their way? Asking for feedback and receiving feedback cover only one component of that process.

Our willingness to consider other perspectives opens us to learn more about how our ideas or actions affect others. None of us live in a vacuum. Everything we do has the potential to impact others directly or indirectly.

If we want to become our best, personally or organizationally, suspending judgment allows time to ask more questions. Otherwise, we miss the opportunity to learn from each other.

Are you willing to see the possibilities of improvement from a new perspective rather than trying to remake what doesn’t work?

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”―Eleanor Roosevelt

Sometimes, the process, the routine, the way you’ve always done it, just won’t move you forward. I understand. Letting go of what feels comfortable and safe causes anxiety and fear of the unknown. Vulnerability tightens its grip on us when we experience uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure (Brené Brown). Take one step at a time, but keep moving. Transformation requires change, vulnerability, and a heavy dose of bravery. Go for it!

Think back to my garden. No matter how much I want a tropical haven, if the conditions don’t meet the needs of those shade-loving plants, they will perish.

Some thoughts to take with you

  1. Be willing to accept that transformation requires change.
  2. Be prepared to ask for help.
  3. Be ready to explore new perspectives and ideas.
  4. Be open to letting go.

Remember― Tropical plants won’t grow in full sun.

And always—

Be kind. Be brave. Be you.

Photo: © Kathryn LeRoy