Written by Roxanne Brown.
We've all been there. You've been given a task you don't believe in, or you have to make a decision you hate making, or a combination of the two. So what do you do when you have to lead a change you don't like?
Well, the first thing to do is get your mind right. Now is the time to ask yourself what's bothering you about this change? Were you taken by surprise? Did you have completely different expectations? Do you fundamentally disagree with the decision? Is your ego getting in the way? What is it? Put some self-reflection time in to understand why you're not onboard. This self-awareness is useful for managing your mood.
Now think about your people, the people you need to lead through this, the people that are impacted by this change. How do you expect they'll react and why? How surprised are they likely to be? What will they need to understand? What support will they need? Start deciding how you will communicate the change and how you will invest in supporting your people.
Now try some visioning. How do you want this to go, ideally? For you and for your people. Imagine the ideal. Why? Because even though you don't have complete control, you do, in fact, have a significant amount of control over how the change is experienced. You control your own experience of the change, and you certainly have significant influence on how your people will experience the change.
Let me zoom in on this for 30 seconds: If you think the change will be hard then it will be. If you think your people won't like the change because people don't like change, then, as the leader, you've pretty much sealed their fate. If you expect (and decide) it's going to be bad, there is no doubt that it absolutely will be. It will meet your expectations.
If, on the other hand, you decide your experience of the change could be how you envision it ideally, then you've got a much better shot at something great. And, if you envision it ideally for your people, then they have a shot at something better too. Let's just say this: People have thanked me for how a difficult change was handled, a change that had a huge impact on their lives, and that's largely because I started by envisioning the ideal for them and then worked hard to figure out how to make that happen. You can do this. It's hard, but it's worth it.
Here are some constructive tactics:
1. Take stock of what you're most concerned about. Ask yourself, what's the worst that can happen? What would happen if you didn't make this change? What would be the impact in six months or a year? What positive actions can you take to prevent the worst from happening? What could you do to create a positive outcome? Dale Carnegie writes about this in his book "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living" -- if you have the book, see chapter 4, How to Analyze and Solve Worry Problems, for a useful exercise. Another great exercise comes from TED Talk presenter Tim Ferriss: Why you should define your fears instead of your goals. Here's a tool to help you clarify your concerns.
2. Decide how your going to show up for your people everyday. Your people are tuned into you, like or not. Your behavior and words send signals all the time about what's important and how things are going. If you're worried, chances are they've picked up on that and they're worried too. My friend Mark Becker (a change expert) always says it's important to check in on your emotions when you're leading a difficult change. He suggests that, for example, on your commute or your walk from the car to your place of business ask yourself how you feel right then. Ask yourself, how do you need to show up for your people? Then make the decision to act accordingly. Remember who you are -- their leader -- and then act accordingly.
3. Start executing strategies to take care of yourself. You're under stress, you need to help yourself manage that. No kidding, don't discount this. How you feel will come across and will only bring you more stress if you ignore it. People around you will suffer because you impact the people in your world. You matter, you are important. Take care of yourself.
4. Get help from a coach, trusted advisor, or mentor to keep you going. Find someone that can be a safe place to talk though what's on your mind, to vent and get perspective. Make it a regular thing. That periodic emotional release will help you find your inner-calm and focus back on what matters most.
This is not an easy thing to do, but you can do this. Once you decide to lead this change well, my bet is you'll already be halfway there.
My inspiration: Back in September 2016 I led a 3-day change management course for a group of HR professionals working for non-profit organizations in foreign countries. Given my heavy corporate experience, needless to say, it was a departure from my usual audience. It was awesome because it was a chance to translate my change management methodology into something that could be universally applied. At one point one of the participants asked what she should do if she didn't believe in the change. Such a fundamental, universal question, and I hadn't covered it! It was good to be reminded that this is a struggle every leader faces sooner or later, and often more than once. It's just part of the deal. The thoughts in this blog are what what I shared in the course.
The Leadership Bubble
Written by Ed Cook.
Leaders, who help to develop the skills and capabilities of their teammates, are giving a gift that returns again and again. Giving it, however, is not always so easy. These brave leaders are attempting a process that can be both difficult to do and even damaging if not carefully done. What makes this such a difficult undertaking is that the process of learning new capabilities does not always happen through instruction alone. Often, it happens best through experience. In order to truly grow, people need to try these new capabilities which means they will fail, certainly in the early attempts. Those brave enough to try may suffer loss of credibility should they fail. They may lose confidence as they see the negative impact of their mistakes on others. Decline, not growth, is possible here.
To conceptualize their role leaders can use The Leadership Bubble. The Leadership Bubble is the concept of a leader placing a protective structure around each member of the team, but it’s tricky. Too tight and the teammate doesn’t learn. Too loose and the teammate may get hurt. I first came in contact with the idea of The Leadership Bubble when I was a pilot in the US Navy and had become a flight instructor. A veteran and grizzled instructor, who had taught me when I was a student, passed on his words of wisdom: Students need to fail. This was not at all obvious to me. Shouldn’t our role as instructors be to help the students succeed. Who teaches someone so that they fail? With decreasing patience, he explained to me that we were not teaching, we were instructing and there was a difference. Teaching was about passing on knowledge. Instructing was about guiding experience. Our job was to guide the experience of the student pilots so that they could fail, safely. Failing leads to learning. Defining the boundaries of success and failure provides the students the motivation to continue on. They fail but can learn and see the way to improve. It keeps the process available and possible not mysterious and unattainable. His specific advice was to never let the student fly beyond my capabilities to make a correction and recover the aircraft. Nowhere is this more difficult than landing on the aircraft carrier.
Months later I found myself flying at night with a student pilot, out for her first night landings aboard an aircraft carrier. Through the hundreds of landing I’ve had aboard an aircraft carrier, I never got comfortable with night landings. You are literally flying into black abyss looking at just a handful of lights as your guide for where the ship is. The process pushes against every instinct that exists in the human body for self-preservation. Doing it while a rookie pilot is at the controls is an act of supreme control of raw animal fear. The plane I flew has the pilots sitting side by side like an airliner. The two pilots share the power levers in the center of the console but have their own set of all other controls. As was my habit, I had my hands at the bottom of the power levers and formed my fingers into a ring so that the student pilot could move the power levers easily but would hit my hands if too much or too little power was applied. It was my version of The Leadership Bubble: a physical bubble around the power levers.
As we moved in behind the ship, the student was clearly struggling. The control and power movements were getting bigger not smaller. Near the very back end of the ship in the literal last second before we would “land” on the aircraft carrier, the plane began to rise on the glideslope. The student made the wrong correction and then pulled the power all the way back. This is deadly. The aircraft passed through the mass of air that is disturbed by the superstructure of the aircraft carrier which makes the aircraft settle. That couple with the reduced power had us plummeting into the back of the ship. With screams over the radio to add power coming from the ship, I closed my fingers around the power levers into a death grip and pushed them to full power. We pulled away from the aircraft carrier, and minutes later I flew the plane back around and landed on the ship.
My buddies congratulated me on saving the aircraft. They scolded the student for such a mistake. It seemed over until my old flight instructor came up to me and dropped this bombshell: “Were you holding the controls the entire time?” I told him that of course I was, he was the one who had taught me to do exactly that. With much disappointment, he explained that I was doing it wrong. The idea was to be near the controls not on the controls. I had made the circle too tight. The student pilot couldn’t make small mistakes, so she couldn’t learn. When it came down to a really dangerous situation, she was not prepared, and it was my fault. Fortunately, the student recovered and went on to be a successful aviator.
This incident solidified for me the power of The Leadership Bubble. I had made the bubble too tight. The student pilot couldn’t make small mistakes and learn. I was trying to protect the student but instead I had made her less capable. On the other end, a leader can make The Leadership Bubble too big and thereby not keep their teammate protected enough. It is a delicate and individual balance, but when done right can create significant growth for each team member.