Perhaps the old saying about “death and taxes” needs revising.
What we can inevitably count on today – all of us – is change.
In many organizations we have developed the ability to talk about, model and organize projects around “change”. It’s not new news anymore when we talk about changes happening in our work environments. Many of us can quote John Kotter chapter and verse. We gear up again and again in the face of change, applying what we know and hoping for the best.
But have we developed true understanding and acumen in our ability to understand, anticipate, navigate and leverage the benefits of change? In too many cases, we have not.
Here are 5 truths about change that can help leaders break through the fog in times of churn and uncertainty.
- Everyone already knows. It is astounding the effort and energy we put into carefully planning when, where, and how we discuss change with employees. The fact is, in 9 out of 10 cases, they already know what is happening, and in fact have a better view of the drivers and solutions involved than leadership does. Leaders would be better off listening than talking.
- Throw away the spreadsheets. Data, predictive and analytical, is necessary but far from sufficient in effectively navigating change. Leaders need 2 or 3 key change effectiveness indicators that are proven reliable and valid and are tracked over time. After that, it is about things that never get on a spreadsheet.
- First and last, it’s about people. The one resource that will make or break the success of a change effort is the people involved. Throwing leaders and their teams into the deep end without transparency, openness, involvement, an engaging vision for the future, or the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in change, is a pretty good predictor of failure. No one person — leader or board or stockholder– knows everything required to make a change successful. It takes people who are involved on the ground….tapping into their knowledge and providing them additional capabilities is activity #1.
- It doesn’t have to be awful! Change can be motivating, growth-inducing, fun and energizing. When everyone is pulling together, receiving the same information in open and honest conversations, being given a role in bringing the opportunity of change to life, while facing the difficult aspects with courage, change can re-create our relationship to the organization and to our work. When we are learning new things, being asked to step up and be a part of the solution, calling on our highest purpose for meaningful work that advances all of us, we are riding a wave of energizing challenge, rather than sulking in the bottom of a trough of despair.
- Underneath it all is EMPATHY. Human beings seem to like a certain level of predictability in their lives — safety really – so that they can engage freely in the world. The recognition that we are all in this together, that we all, each and everyone one of us without exception, have past experiences with change and will deal with change over and over again throughout our lifetime is critical. There is no “resolution” to change. Change is. Therefore leaders who empathize with all who are going through the change– not set themselves apart– are able to lead through the tough aspects of change to achieve the myriad opportunities within.