Your eyes sparkle. Your smile widens. It is Thrilling. Daring.
It’s what I call the *zing* of excitement and energy we get with a new idea – the thing that keeps leaders coming back for more over and over again. It could be anything: a new offering, a proactive approach to a new regulation, a reorg for increased efficacy, a new database schema (takes all kinds, ya know?).
You start taking bold strides forward, and you look around at your team, and find them in two distinct places:
a. Next to you giving you a high five
b. Behind you somewhere trying not to look ill
There is really not much in between when it comes to people’s reaction to change. They are either ready for it, or they aren’t.
Change can lead to queasy stomachs, long stares from restless nights, shakes from the overly espresso’ed after a night of too much self-medication. And that’s with the people that are ready for the change! It can also cause some to dig their heels in to stay where they are for all they’re worth.
As a leader, do you just keep striding forward and figure you’ll lose some people?
What if they are your best people?
What if they are your most thoughtful people?
Leaders who like to live at the edge of that creative tension sometimes struggle to really get what the problem is for these heel-digger-inners. And I’m here to tell you – the problem just might be you.
As the leader, it is your responsibility to bring your people with you through a big change. What you know to be true is that you can’t create, grow, or sustain anything without your team.
There is a lot of theory around how people deal with change, but I like to boil it down to three practical ideas.
- Share your vision. As early as possible. As often as possible. As passionately as possible. And make sure you focus on WHY IT IS AMAZING. They have to see that the awkwardness they are struggling through is worthwhile.
Most people’s brains will fight to stay with what’s familiar. It’s why we date people like our dads, why we constantly go back to the same bad habits, why we never move to a new place. And we do them even when those things don’t make sense.
- Figure out where your people are based on behavior (not just what they tell you).
Some people are easy to sort out. The woman who suddenly needs time away from work – approved or otherwise. The guy who starts picking fights over labeling in the refrigerator.
But, this can be tricky, because some behaviors can be interpreted both as moving forward or staying behind. For instance, you’ve got a director in Ops who’s working so intensely that he just can’t make the meeting today. Is he racing ahead with the change, or staying busy enough to not deal with it? Denial is always a big part of resistance.
- Leverage the jackrabbits. Your staff who are moving ahead with you can help your cause. Have them reemphasize the WHY from their own perspective, as it relates to those in other parts of the organization. In big organizations, it can be hard for the boots-on-the-ground staff to relate to the excitement of a leader who they rarely see (and only then from a distance), and who might have unclear motivations.
As social creatures, the stats tell us that if we can get 30% of your organization moving toward your new big vision, then the rest will come along. But if you’re out front on your own, you’ll struggle.
As a leader that is energized by change, you have to make sure that your people are coming with you. It’s not rocket science, but it does take a plan and some strategy to get it right.
If you don’t get it right, then you’ll likely stagnate, lose your best people (they have options, after all), break down the sense of team, damage staff engagement, and, likely, negatively affect your clients.
There is so much more to share around how you can take that tension of a big change and turn it into excitement, creativity, and high-performing teams…
Until next time.