Change is a constant. Right now, we’re in an aggressive change phase that’s having a substantial impact across the whole world. As this constant change can cause ever-increasing pressures and priorities, Craig contemplates what to focus your time and efforts on.
There are two components to change: actual change (the physical endpoint, e.g. moving from the office to home-working; a new building; new IT software), and the transition (the journey that people take when they go through a period of change). For some, it’s natural to focus on physical change more than the transition of people. To help people navigate the change journey, we need to focus on helping people make the transition safely and with maximum support.
A great starting point (as with most things in life) is to focus on ‘beginning with the end in mind’. Have a very clear outcome of what you want to achieve; what will it feel and look like? Focus your communication on where you’re going (your vision) and ensure it’s crystal-clear. Draw people into the change; engage with them, listen to them, answer their questions and share the message across the whole organisation. This will offer you a great starting point so everyone knows what the outcome will be.
Focusing on your people is the ‘right stuff,’ but how do you achieve this? A few tips, which may help, include:
• support your people by being totally honest, open and transparent
• ensure your people understand the reason why the change is happening and understand their own reactions and emotions when they go through change
• regularly check-in with your people, reminding them of the outcome you’re heading to and listen until your ears want to drop off! People really value being listened to
• show your people that what they’re experiencing is natural and normal and we’re all going through this together
• take an individual approach to your people, recognising their own preferred ways of communicating which may require more time for the person to begin the journey
• really know your people by genuinely caring and supporting each of them
When I see people feeling uncomfortable around change and when people push back against it, I have an innate curiosity to understand what I haven’t told them or what haven’t I done enough of to help them. Sometimes it’s because people just don’t know what they need to do.
Identify what they’re not comfortable with. If they’re working from home, do they have the right equipment? Is their time-pressured as they’re also home-schooling their children? What training would help them? These priorities can cause stress and unhappiness and it’s thinking about how you can be flexible to encourage people through the change. Support people to concentrate on what’s in their area of control. How can they view stuff that’s out of their control differently? How can they think and feel about it differently?
Be timely in the support you offer people during the change transition. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask them, “How can I make this live and breathe for you? How do you feel about this change? What are you thinking? What’s going on? What can I do to make your life easier?” Put your time and effort into listening and talking to people. Make this a priority for you.
This can be challenging, so have a coach and mentor to support you as well as considering self-coaching. Ask yourself, “How am I dealing with this change? What do I need right now? Would coaching support me? Would coaching support my people?” Treat your people as individuals and know them personally. If your intent is to help people, focus on their relationships, know what drives them.
Change can be uncomfortable and challenging but we’re all going through this together with ups and downs. We’re here to support each other and the leader’s role is to navigate. Imagine you’re all in the same, sometimes violent, storm together but each of you is in your own little boat trying to navigate the journey. The leader’s role is to help each person make their boat’s journey as smooth as possible.
As a leader who’s been through a lot of change over the years, I always tend to focus on the endpoint. I break that down into what the endpoint will feel and look like. If I’m having a really challenging week and feeling a bit low, I break my endpoint down even further, “By the end of today I’ll achieve x and I’ll feel content about it”. I’m kind to myself, recognising that I don’t get it right all the time. I cut myself some slack; something somewhere is going to slip a bit. If you build great relationships with the people you work with, then they may cut you some slack as well. I recognise I can only do so much and I need to find a bit of time for myself.
When change is happening appreciate others are struggling as well as you and that their behaviour may not match what you envisage it should be.
That’s my story. How are you coping with the change at the moment?