Change and the Unknown

As a leader, you must learn to not only tolerate change, you must learn to create it – and help others do the same. The challenge: The road to the future is paved with uncertainty. And, for many people, your picture of the future is not clear and inviting - it is dark and foreboding.
We’re on the front end of the first major, organization-wide restructuring of my career. I know to many of you, this may seem incomprehensible. As I understand it, major restructuring is the norm in most large organizations. And, in many cases, the intent is a reduction in workforce. That is not what we are doing.
We are making changes to our structure to accommodate and accelerate growth. We are also looking to create more opportunities for emerging leaders. These are worthy goals.
What we’ve also learned, or been reminded, during this process is that change is unsettling for many people. We are attempting to mitigate the anxiety and uncertainly but the truth is change is always accompanied by the unknown.
How do you help people navigate significant change? Here are some ideas to get you started…
Start with whySimon Sinek did us all a favor by reminding us of a timeless and universal leadership principle: Tell people why you are doing what you are doing and they are more likely to follow you. This is powerful but it is not a panacea. Not everyone will agree with you; but even those who don’t will appreciate knowing your rationale. This will make the changes more palatable.
[tweet_box design="default"]Tell people why you are doing what you are doing and they are more likely to follow you.- Simon Sinek[/tweet_box]
Be honest – This may seem like a blinding flash of the obvious, but unfortunately I feel it needs to be mentioned. When major changes are afoot, leaders can gain or lose tremendous amounts of credibility based on this single issue. Do your people feel as though you are being honest with them regarding the changes – both individually and collectively?
Be open to questions – If honesty is one of your guiding principles during the change process, you should be open to answer tough questions. Reluctance in this arena will cast doubt on the entire process and the leadership initiating the changes. If you do entertain questions, try to avoid answers like, “I can’t discuss that.” Or, “I’m not at liberty to discuss those details.”
Embrace change personally - People always watch the leader. What are they learning from your response to change? Are you open and optimistic? Leaders who resist change should not be surprised when their people do the same. Always model the behaviors you want to see from your team, regardless of the topic.
Create a “Change Hearty” culture – Leaders and individuals in successful organizations know progress is always preceded by change. When you’ve created a change hearty culture, the question is not “Why are we changing?” It is, “What do we need to change next?” People in the healthy cultures are not surprised by change, they not only anticipate it – they instigate it. I'll write more about this in an upcoming post.
The bottom line: if you want to lead a healthy and growing organization, change will forever be part of your world. Learn to lead change effectively and you can accomplish great things![GLS_Shield]


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