If you react badly to change, your team has no hope.

September 21, 2018

Much is spoken about change, and the best way to lead teams through change. In fact, I am often asked to do presentations on this very subject.

The one thing that stands out for me, is that it is pointless on fixating how you can support your team through change, if you don’t know how to support yourself through change first.

I find myself talking and writing constantly about the theme of self-awareness and there is a good reason for that.

From my own experience, a lack of understanding about how we are feeling, and our own reaction to change or stress, is the first massive hurdle to being a successful leader. Worse than that, is that the more senior we get, the more we seem to think that we shouldn't be affected by pressure, because we, as the boss, are somehow above it or totally in control of it. Not only is this a really bad zone for us mentally and physically, it is a bad zone for the people around you too.

The simple fact is that we all human. We have things going on in our lives at any given time that will impact our reactions and the way we deal with stress. This isn't about pretending everything is ok, or trying to deal with the pressure alone. In fact that is the worst thing we can do as leaders and as humans!

My biggest tip is don’t put more pressure on yourself thinking that you shouldn’t be feeling any stress!

All I urge you to do here, is give yourself the space to think about how you are feeling and reacting. Then think about what you need in your environment to feel supported yourself.

The fact is that if you are under pressure, you probably aren't even considering how you could be impacting your team.

Generally, there are two broad scenarios that play out when leaders are under pressure.

Scenario one is where the leader falls into the trap of thinking that the only way to respond to an increase in pressure is to pile on more pressure on those around you, at the same time sinking further and further into the abyss of doing more tasks, meetings, emails and... well busywork. Then what happens is the cascade effect. You know the pressure you pass on to your team? Well they pass it on to their teams, and mimic the example that you are setting. What happens then is a self-fulfilling prophecy of stress, long hours, burn out and worst of all, less and less communication - because who has time for that?!

The second scenario is entirely different. Think of a team that you have observed that is resilient and positive under pressure. They are working at a fast pace, but there is still a feel of camaraderie, of positivity and team work.

The fundamental difference here is that the leader has proactively been setting them up in an environment that makes them feel supported, knowing that when change inevitably comes, or there is a looming deadline, the team will take it in their stride instead of panicking.

Their focus has been on creating a resilient and flexible team, with a high level of trust in each other and them as the leader - and under pressure, it shows.

Behind the scenes of course, these leaders have also been working hard to look after themselves, and are extremely self-aware about what and who they need in their environment to ensure they can operate at their optimal level.

So here's my tip. Forget change as an ‘event’. We all acknowledge that 'change is a constant' - and it is. So why not be proactive and set yourself and your people up so that they have the best possible environment to deal with whatever comes around the corner?

Instead of focussing on tasks and meetings, or getting lost in emails and running out of time to communicate, focus on setting a clear vision for your team. Defining what success looks like. Know your strengths and those of your team. Create an environment where everyone can flourish.

If that is your “normal’ then you will have set yourself and your team up in the best possible way, so that when change happens:

- No one will  bat an eyelid - because they will have a leader that is centred, calm and clear on the direction.

- Your team will feel supported and empowered, so no-one will feel personal fear.

- Everyone knows their role, and will hold each other accountable.

Need help? I've got your back!

If you need help leading yourself or your team through change, and setting up an environment for success, then give me a call!


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