Founders, entrepreneurs and leaders in large organizations all face the prospect of rapid change in today’s marketplace.
Change can be brought on by digital transformation, economic circumstances or even growth.
How do we lead the inevitable change in our companies?
People experience change on different levels, but if there’s one unifying emotion when it comes to change is that it feels personal. And depending on where we sit, it can feel like it’s completely out of our control, just like that feeling of being a passenger in a speeding car when you don’t trust the driver
If leaders don’t want a lot of backseat drivers they have to be able to set the direction, handle the obstacles, communicate effectively and garner trust.
Leading teams in change requires someone who can guide a team in uncertainty and uncharted territory.
Leaders should be asking themselves and their teams some questions to successfully navigate. Here are 5 of them.
How can we … Be Fast?
Let’s continue with the experience of riding in a car.
Everything in the car is moving at the same speed. We can look out the window at the passing landscape to give us a sense of how fast we’re moving. But if you’re sitting next to your normally slow friend, he or she is moving exactly as fast as you are. Of course, we’ve all experienced this. We can juggle balls in the car because the balls are in the same container. But if we dropped a ball out the window it would swiftly disappear behind us.
If we’re driving the car, the last thing we want to do is jam on the brakes. We are much more likely to navigate the obstacles ahead if we continue to move but alter our course to avoid them.
Now instead of slowing the car to avoid obstacles what would happen if we move even faster?
Imagine we could move so fast that we would leave the car behind. The relative speed of the car would seem slow, giving us the perception of even more time to make crucial decisions. Think of The Flash, when he goes into hyper-speed, everything around him moves in slow motion and he’s able to change the trajectory of bullets or change the angle of someone punching, so they wack their criminal friend instead of Cisco.
If organizations face rapid change in a constantly developing environment, increasing speed may actually change perception and open up even more possibilities.
How can we … Be Bold?
Jeanie Duck, organizational change expert, leads with boldness. ‘Any change requires resources and management attention,’ as she writes in The Change Monster. ‘Why waste them on timid initiatives? Bold moves send a strong signal to the organization and build confidence. Confidence is central to change management.’
How can we … Be Predictable & Capable?
Trust in a time of change is based on two things – predictability and capability. People want to know what to expect when the change comes.
How can you, as the driver, foster predictability?
Predictability combines intention and ‘ground rules’.
Communicating organizational goals, putting decision making systems in place and letting people know how decisions will be made is important.
Communicating Intention helps to stabilize an organization because people can understand ‘why’ decisions are being made which builds a foundation of trust.
Once intention is clear and the ground rules are set then we can ask – are you capable of this change? Do you want to be part of this change?
How leaders perform in the changing environment depends partly on how capable they are, but also how willing they are to adapt. We call this skill and will. Do you have the skills needed in the new environment and are you willing to learn what you need to thrive in the new normal?
An organization is a web of connectedness. Change can alter the shape of things sending waves through the entire web. Organizational webs are truly made of networks – neural networks of human beings.
As a new shape emerges, participants should ask if they want to fit in?
Managing change is mobile and fluid with many dimensions and nuances. Strategy, information systems, tech, company culture are all expected to ride this wave of uncertainty.
How do we find balance?
We use speed and boldness to keep moving. Everyone who has tried to stand on stilts as a kid knows that you have to keep moving to stay in balance.
Leaders should strive to build trust through intention and predictability. People who are resistant to change should ask if they have the skill and will to continue so that they don’t become backseat drivers.
How can we … Be Open?
Implementing change requires organizations to work with people. Openness doesn’t mean that we let the entire group in on a change decision. It means that once a decision is made, key people are engaged in communicating the message.
Rumors of change zip through companies. ‘Faster than the speed of change.’ This is where the first principle comes in again … speed.
It’s easier to be open before rumors infect the company culture.
Many corporate change efforts center on moving information across internal boundaries that are not serving the group? How can we engage people to share insights and ignite breakthrough thinking?
How do you stimulate conversation because change is inevitable.
How can we … Be Clear?
If we’re fast, bold, predictable and open … If we engage our teams in change and create systems that facilitate new idea creation focused on a clear vision then we have a chance to find opportunity in change.
Change doesn’t mean moving constantly in different directions. The vision and direction must be clear even if execution and actions are mobile and fluid.
Clarity about what we want and where we’re going can sometimes lift organizations above perceived obstacles and open up new horizons. And by empowering people and educating them to embrace change … if they are willing … we may even leave the old vehicles behind.