In my first article, I spoke about effective leadership; many of our great leadership were born in crisis whether it’s war, financial crisis or natural disasters.
It’s the way in which they react and respond to crisis that defines them as a leader. Leading through change is no different as the underlying principles are the same. Inclusivity is key. Being inclusive is a cornerstone of most organization these days and, inclusive leaders know it’s part of their role to create a safe space where people can feel respected and heard no matter their viewpoint.
The worst thing a leader can do during change is put their head down, succumb to fear or go into denial. People are looking for guidance during times of change and reassurance. In the role as a leader, we all know there will be bumps along the way, which you will have likely experienced before and will do in the future.
People want to feel their leaders are in control, not necessarily they know all the answers, but they are making informed decisions to keep the organization going.
Communication is King! My last article focused on communication (content, mediums, audience etc.). However, in times of change, more communication is better than no communication.
Start with yourself and be aware of how you are feeling. Set up regular town halls, messages to keep people informed. Even if there is no major update, people like to see their leaders and have the opportunity to be heard and ask questions. Maintaining regular communication is crucial during change.
Be truthful if you don’t have a response. (Leaders do not have all the answers.) Take it away and commit to getting back with a response. Share what you are able to share and address questions or concerns. Lean toward understanding different points of view and help others understand them.
Encourage a culture of speaking up. During times of change, there will be unplanned situations and events. Knowing what is occurring across the organization will help you make better decisions.
Set up enablement mechanisms that allow people to communicate with you and share thoughts or ideas.
Make sure you and all your leaders are trained in cultural competence, so they operate with inclusion and address biases, exclusion, or injustices they see.
Engage with staff
Be empathetic towards concerns. People may feel concerned about job security, impact to their families and long-term prospects of the organization.
Ensure you have the resources to support staff who have concerns or are feeling unsettled or traumatized by what is going on. Encourage employees to take advantage of employee assistance programs which may be in place. Consider setting up support or focus groups which allow people to engage with you or your leadership team. Your HR organization should be well equipped to assist.
Acknowledge the uncertainty people may be feeling and don’t be afraid to share your thoughts. It will enable you to connect with people and be approachable.
Look for learning opportunities as you go through change. Many disagreements are based on the lack of information or stem from isolated realms. If there are gaps or issues, use those as examples on which to learn.
There’s never been a more important time to be an inclusive advocate. What leaders say and how they behave sends signals throughout the organization.
To survive changes, crisis or disasters, and emerge stronger and more unified, we need true leaders. The kind of leader who resists fear, shame and blame and promotes understanding, courage, and compassion.