Leadership is defined by changing times. Businesses must always change in order to maintain their leadership in the industry. Those organizations that don’t change remain stagnant and end up falling behind their competition. Consumers’ wants change. Industry standards change. Regulations change. Business demands change. COVID has forced change. Change has always been inevitable, but during COVID and long into our post-COVID world, change has become a necessity. Those organizations that achieve and maintain success do so through competent leadership.
A significant barrier to leading through changing times is that people are creatures of habit. We don’t like change! Change takes us out of our comfort zones. It causes confusion because most of the time people do not know what is changing and what is not changing. In addition, many times the whys of what are causing the change are not clearly understood. And most of the time success is defined by new measurements on which performance is judged, and the fear can be crippling – to both people and the organization. So how do great leaders break through this confusion and fear to blaze a new path to success?
Here are some essential tips
People Tend to Support What They Help Create. This may sound like a tired adage, but it’s true. People like to be included in the development and planning of new processes, policies and procedures. Inclusion opens up understanding of the business journey on which employees will have to travel. It allows for mutually defined goals and plans. Most of all it provides ownership, which yields responsibility and accountability.
Be a Better Listener. Good leaders listen to the people around them. They listen to suggestions and new ideas about how things might be accomplished. Listen to people who just need to “vent” even when that venting may not be productive. People are trying to regain their footing during changing times, and listening to them will provide them comfort.
Great Leaders Are Empathetic to Feelings. Change produces a wide range of emotions. Leaders must not be apathetic to people’s emotions: “I don’t care how you feel, just do it.” Nor should they be sympathetic to people’s emotions: “I agree, you should be angry.” Instead, leaders must be empathetic. This means acknowledging the person’s emotions: “I see this has you frustrated. What about this is frustrating?” Being empathetic shows a person you recognize the emotions they are fighting through and then allows you to deal with facts – the root causes – of their frustration. It’s easier to deal with facts and actual situations than to try to negotiate with individual emotions.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. You can never communicate too much during changing times. Change causes confusion. People initially hear only what they want to hear. People draw conclusions based on their past experiences. Developing a consistent message and delivering that same message over and over again facilitates all changes.
“What’s In It for Me?” People implement change, not organizations. Don’t highlight what the changes mean to the company. Highlight instead what the changes mean for your people. Your answer to this question should always focus on the positives or benefits, such as increased productivity, elimination of busywork, or less stress. Failure to focus on your people will mean certain disaster.
Identify and Rely on Key Stakeholders. Identify other key stakeholders and rely on them to provide you with support, answers to questions you can’t answer, and resolutions to issues that may be outside of your authority.
Following these six principles of managing change will make you the best leader you can be during turbulent times.
Lou Quinto has been working with companies and their associates internationally for over 30 years in the areas of critical thinking, leadership, and communication skills. You can watch or listen to Lou discuss leadership and management issues as the co-host of the weekly video blog and podcast “Q&A on Breakthrough Leadership.”