We live in a world of constant change, but some changes feel bigger than others.
For instance, occasionally we’ll hear people grumbling about a social media platform changing its style, but everyone adjusts fairly quickly and accepts the new reality.
Then there are changes that feel big and scary to people. Maybe it’s an untested marketing strategy that can’t guarantee success or an organizational restructuring that cause people to fear for their jobs or a global pandemic that affects all sectors of society. Whatever the case, bigger changes throw people off-balance. As leaders, our job is to help them navigate the uncharted waters.
So, how do you do that? Consider the following 7 steps:
1 – Listen to Concerns
Many times, people simply want to be heard. They need to communicate their concerns. They need a sounding board. When people feel heard, they feel valued. When they are ignored, they mistrust. Remember that the news of change is brand new to them while it’s been in process for quite some time for you. Give them a listening ear to help them process the change.
2 – Cast Vision
Sharing the vision of the change is critical. What is the end goal? Why is this change important? What should we expect as a result of this change? Answering these type of questions can help people be forward-thinking and energized rather than backward-thinking and fearful. Help them consider the benefits of the change to combat the pain of loss they are feeling.
3 – Sympathize, But Don’t Validate Fears
As you listen to concerns and discuss the vision, it’s fine to sympathize with the unsettled emotions of your followers, but don’t validate their fears. Fear has been defined by some as “false evidence appearing real.” Fear is based on uncertainty, not hard evidence. We fear what we’ve not experienced before. When people are expressing fear, it’s a sign that they haven’t been there before. Most of our fears are irrational and never actually happens. Be sympathetic to emotions, but don’t validate them as if they will become reality.
4 – Stay the Course
When you face resistance to change it’s tempting to shrink back. It’s easy to doubt whether you’ve made the right decision. If you’ve done your due diligence and worked hard to plan strategically, you must stay the course and persist. Push through the invisible wall of uncertainty. It’s like driving through fog; you may need to go slower and be more cautious, but you must keep moving forward if you’re going to get through it to experience clear skies on the other side. Change is difficult for most people, so they need leaders who will help them keep moving forward by staying the course that has been communicated.
5 – Reassure Consistently
When results are slow and you’re in the “messy middle” of the change process, reassure your followers that you’re making progress despite the lack of immediate obvious evidence. Re-cast the vision. Help them keep looking forward rather than backward. Be confident and compassionate simultaneously.
6 – Communicate Progress
Even though small wins may not feel exciting, any step forward in the change process is important to highlight. Share with your followers the progress that is occuring. They may not see it. Leaders see things from a higher level view. Those on the ground level may not see what’s happening. Small improvements aren’t always obvious. It’s like raising children. Parents don’t see the growth as easily as others who haven’t seen the child for a while. On a daily basis, change is incremental, but over the course of time, it is exponential.
7 – Celebrate Wins
Determine to celebrate when milestones are achieved. People need to know they’re winning. They want to be on a winning team and wins give confidence to keep working the plan. Celebrating helps alleviate fear and uncertainty. It’s the boost that the team needs in order to accomplish each next step in the change process.
Change is hard because it pushes us out of our comfort zones. But change is necessary for improvement. Healthy organizations grow. Growth doesn’t always mean getting bigger. Sometimes it means going deeper. But the reality is that staying right where you are to protect your comfort zone means that the world is moving on without you. Determine what needs to change in your organization, then help your followers navigate the change so you can experience new levels of success.
Until next time, make today GREAT!
P.S. Are you a business owner or executive who is looking to attract quality team members and keep them engaged in your organization’s vision and mission? Check out the Magnetic Leadership Community where you’ll receive weekly leadership lessons, participate in monthly Q&A calls, hear from dynamic leaders in monthly interviews, and engage in a private forum with other growing leaders like yourself. You can even choose a monthly 1:1 coaching call. CLICK HERE to learn more and join the community!