Healthy Tension

Cake or cookies? Yes, please.

This was a common exchange in our home growing up. My father’s sweet tooth and my mom’s skills in the kitchen made the idea of choosing one sweet treat over the other a non-starter. Dad almost always had both. There are situations in business, too, that merit “and” thinking. Innovate or build on the basics? Yes, please.

For many of us, reading books and articles about business, our industries, and leading others is a regular part of our routine. There is no shortage of great ideas out there. I expect we’ll have a steady supply of new theories to explore for years to come. One of the challenges we face as leaders, though, is to identify which new things are worthy of our attention and which may be a distraction. Stated another way, as leaders, we must embrace the reality of change while preserving our foundations, the core on which our businesses have been built.

Well-intentioned fables about the buggy whip factory or a case study of the Polaroid company warn us of the danger of ignoring the realities of the markets we serve. The increasing pace of change is well documented and gives urgency to the need to embrace change. Being labeled as “resistant to change” is a big red flag for both organizations and individuals, especially those of us who have been around for a few decades.

At the same time, we can find plenty of wise counsel that advises us to “stick to the knitting” or “find your hedge-hog.” There are plenty of warnings for business leaders to avoid a flavor of the month and to avoid strategies based on the latest fad.

The truth is we need to both innovate and build on our core. Embracing change and preserving the core are not mutually exclusive. We need both. The key is to be intentional and thoughtful about what needs to be kept and what needs to change. This may look a little different for every business. In our business, large capital projects are becoming more collaborative. Technology is constantly evolving, generally becoming more capable and more economical. Cybersecurity risks are a threat, and the use of analytics is a big opportunity. We must embrace these changes, understand how they will impact our clients’ businesses and adjust how we serve our clients.

While we embrace changes, we need to continue to build our core. We need to keep performing well on our projects and get the basics correct. Each day we strive to build relationships through our core values: dependability, integrity, trust, quality and family. Our vision to Understand Needs > Deliver Results and our Why Statements to Find a Better Way, Make a Difference With our Clients, and Provide Opportunities for our People, along with our values, will continue to be the core on which we build.

David Krahling, Vice President of Special Projects

This blog was originally published in the Current Connections Spring 2021 issue.


Ahead Behind Beside

I recently received feedback that I tend to jump in too quickly to help others solve their problems. My intent is noble. Whether at work or home with my family, I…

Read More
Summer Balance

Summer 2023 is upon us! Summer brings all the fun, exciting activities such as family trips, BBQs, outdoor recreation, etc. For us at Interstates and others in our industry, it…

Read More
Leadership Means Action

“Leadership is an action, not a position.” I recently came across this quote by Donald McGannon. It got me thinking about how being a leader isn’t about the number of…

Read More