I have been doing a lot of work in the change leadership space recently. One of the key challenges facing leaders in times of uncertainty is remembering that “it is not all about me”. Leading through change is a tough gig – absolutely. And it is easy to get caught up in how you are feeling or how busy you are, and forget that others are looking to you for guidance, role modelling and help. Two key mistakes I have observed (and made myself) are:
1 – Venting to your team. This is common in close knit teams and I see it all the time. Leaders feel comfortable with their team and are very open about how they are feeling and what they are thinking. However, especially when times are uncertain, your team needs leadership. As a leader, you have agreed to support the direction of the organisation. When you don’t appear to support the change, your people won’t either. If you must vent (and let’s face it, we all do from time to time), keep it to a close group of friends or family. Be aware too that you are a brand ambassador for your organisation, so don’t say anything you might regret.
2 – Not walking the talk. I recently delivered a culture program for a client, and the participants wanted to discuss why they were not seeing the organisation living and breathing the espoused culture. This highlights that you can’t create change in an organisation by just running a program. The leaders must lead by example. You want behaviour change? Change YOUR behaviour and others will follow. Mixed messages really cause problems.
This all seems obvious, so why is it so hard? Is it lack of self-awareness, or not realising the importance of being congruent? It is a bit of both. Many leaders are leaders because they are really good at task focus. Even though they know the people / culture / change focus is important, when it gets busy or stressful, the leaders revert to their “go to” behaviours – which are task focussed. Under pressure, reversion to type is the default response and without good self-awareness and emotional intelligence, leaders are unable to hold the line.
Some key lessons I have learned are:
In times of change, it is vital to be present
Make yourself more visible
- People can’t be influenced by behaviour they don’t see
- You may be feeling uncomfortable or worn out from facing employees who feel threatened and defensive…BUT… It is essential to get out there
Be genuine and real with people
- Remind yourself what you are trying to achieve
- Stay connected to your situation
Coach / teach / role model
How you deal with change has a big impact on your leadership legacy – what people remember you for. What do you want people to say about your leadership?