2 Keys to Leading Through Change
Leading through change is a constant challenge for all leaders. No matter your scope of influence or the number of people being affected, change will always be one of the challenges facing leaders. Change will test your adaptive capacities. Change will cast shadows of doubt within yourself, cloud your vision of the future, and erode the clarity of a well-planned strategy. Change may threaten relational trust and distract even the most focused of your team. On the other hand, change can be a welcome catalyst for greater clarity, compassion, and community.
I have to admit, I knew it was coming but I did not know when. I had done all my preparation, I had made the necessary decisions, I had read blogs and esteemed publications to ensure that I was prepared for the moment I knew I had to face. And then it happened, it began to downpour right when it was supposed to at mile 9 of my 20-mile run.
I needed to make a change!
To endure the storm, I needed to make some changes in clothing, running tempo, and focus. The storm would pass and these necessary changes in how I was running would not impede what I needed to accomplish: my long run. Running provides constant challenges, storms or not. Leading others through change also provides constant challenges. And of one thing I am sure: with all organizational change comes a storm or two, and storms will pass.
Weathering the Storm
At Leadership Vision, 2017 has been a year of change. In January, we were clear on what changes needed to be made, but we were not sure how we were going to navigate our changing landscape. Three main changes were identified to be integrated January 1st:
- The addition of three new employees
- Change in our organizational structure
- New year-long objectives and priorities for each of our partnership teams
Three months into these changes, I have to admit that there have been storms; there are still challenges, but we are becoming a much stronger team because of it.
As we continue to navigate these tumultuous storms of change, I have found two essential characteristics of leadership to be most helpful: Knowing your response to change and knowing how you embrace the realities of change.
Knowing Your Response to Change
Do you enjoy change or hope to avoid it? Or Maybe you’re somewhere in between? Knowing your response to change is the first step to help yourself and others throughout this process.
- Focus – Know your destination. Throughout the process of change, there will be distractions which tempt you to lose focus on your destination. You will need to quickly identify these distractions before it derails everything. Consider what you can do to keep everyone on the team focused on the agreed upon destination.
- Unify – Work together. Change inspires individuals to rise up and ask, “how can I help?” Change also provokes us to unify as a team knowing that ‘we’ will have more potential than ‘me.’ So, when change occurs, how do you best collaborate with others on your team? Change inevitably disrupts common thinking and decision making, which can cause splintering among team members. Change also invites teams to creatively think of new ways to work together. Whatever emotions or excitement result from the change you are facing, face it and focus on it as a unified team.
- Adapt – Expect surprises. When facing any change, surprises will happen, plan for it! Expect it in team members, resources, timelines, commitments, and even in your destination. Most importantly – Adapt to the surprise, Ask for help from others, and Align, again, to your destination. When change brings surprises, knowing how you adapt will shape how you and your team members will eventually navigate change.
- Grow– Listen and learn. Change always provides an opportunity for growth as people and teams. Even though change is challenging, be mindful to listen and learn. Listen to what you are saying to others. Are your words, language perspective, and tone of voice helping others focus, unify, and adapt? Learn from others as they help you focus, unite, and adapt. Change always provides an opportunity for growth.
Embracing the Realities of Change
Change is a dichotomy. It can be positive and negative, change can divide and unite, change can be feared and welcomed. Ask yourself, “How well do I lead others through the realities of change?”
- Change brings confusion and clarity: At the beginning of change there is usually a clarity compelling us forward and a reasonable level of cultural excitement. All are on board, all understand the respected changes coming, and all share in the vision of the future. Without a doubt, change is consistent in how it will introduce confusion. Prepare to face daily confusion with clarity – realigning the confusion to refocus on the destination.
- Change brings conclusion & continuation: Change is necessary to bring an end to practices and processes no longer relevant or effective. Change is also necessary to reemphasize why you are continuing transformative objectives, deep-held values, and professional best practices. Remember, leading through change will also challenge your thinking of what might not need to be concluded or continued.
- Change brings compassion and community: Change also does something very expected – it leads to deepened compassion for each other and a greater sense of community. When change leads us through very difficult decisions, the result is often a greater compassion for each other, their sacrifices, and selfless service. Change puts each of us in the same place and we all share in the growing pains of change.
At Leadership Vision, we are still navigating the challenges ahead, being mindful to keep focus, work collaboratively, and adapt to surprises and growth.
How do you respond to change? How are you leading others through the realities of change? Share below!