“Change is the process by which the future invades our lives.”—Alvin Toffler, writer and futurist
As we start a new year, it’s easy to anticipate all sort of uncertainty and change on the horizon.
Artificial Intelligence seems to be growing every day. Another election cycle is picking up. You never know when Taylor Swift will announce more concert dates that will throw travel plans into a frenzy.
Yes, unknowns of all sizes do create changes that cause ripple effects from the economy to our personal lives. For leaders, navigating uncertainties is an essential skill to maintain a sense of trust, consistency and stability in the culture.
Here are tips for leaders to stay strong while the world shifts and changes around them.
Prepare for change as inevitable
Some sort of change for an organization is going on at any given time, either internally or in the market. Internal changes may relate to restructuring, new technology, quality improvement, new products and services, new leadership, retirements and succession, cost-cutting measures and cultural renewal—you name it. Externally, market globalization, stiff competition and explosive digital technology also contribute to the destabilizing environment. Some companies adapt and thrive, such as Amazon, Google, Apple, McDonald’s, Starbucks and Netflix. Other companies and industries have not adapted well, including Blockbuster, AOL, GM, shopping malls and Kodak. There’s no guarantee that a company will survive change, and often the key differentiator is if leadership can help its people navigate to new territory both personally and as a company.
Anticipate how change makes people feel
For a leader, the key to success during times of significant change is to minimize the depth and duration of lost morale and productivity. To accomplish that, the leader must acknowledge and address the predictable reactions to change. Leaders must, in fact, expect resistance. So often, leaders respond to resistance with intolerance, impatience and frustration. That will slow down others’ acceptance to change. Rather, by acknowledging and addressing resistance early and often, the leader will help increase the likelihood of readiness for and acceptance to change. Employees want to feel acknowledged and understood.
Be patient with change
There are three phases of changes in a company, which we call the Rational Change Model: Getting started, building momentum and reinventing. This process can’t be rushed! Leaders play a central role in the successful implementation of changes, both big and small. But first, you have to discover where in the phases your team, department or company is located so you can help your people move forward. Note that you can be in all three phases in different parts of the organization.
Even if change is a constant, it still can make people anxious and uncomfortable, while it energizes others. A leader’s job is to anticipate change, navigate change and smooth out the rough spots so everyone lands on the same page.
As a leader, may this year bring with you opportunities even as it presents challenges, with the ability to grow your team through the next phases.