By Chip Lutz
Change is good! We know it and accept it as a premise but this phrase becomes empty and tiresome when all we know is change. In today's world, change comes at us like a "F-5" Tornado - hurtling objects at us so fiercely that we have to hide in the basement for protection and wait for the winds to subside. When leaders don't make the proper preparations, we find ourselves (and our team) blown more towards "stressed and apathetic" rather than "happy and enthusiastic”! To shelter your team from the stress and negativity that can emerge from the winds of change (even with the best plan), take refuge in these simple actions for creating a positive environment.
Just as Aretha Franklin sings, you have to show a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T and find out "what it means to me." The fears and negativity that your team face when dealing with change can be calmed when you address them head on. Finding out what the change means to them will help you adapt, overcome and build rapport. Respect on the individual basis is proactive (rather than reactive). Although team members may at first grumble, it will be short lived. Why?! Because they know that you are a leader that listens and acts rather than one who is easily tossed by elements. Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
"Play nice." This was something I heard time and time again from my mother while I was growing up and it still applies in my adult life. A kind word, a good deed, sharing, a simple smile - little things that help people connect, collaborate, and cooperate grow increasingly paramount when facing strong winds. Agitated leaders who grow impatient and pushy rarely get the desired result. If they do, the wake of the storm leaves little substance for reconstruction. Kindness enables the team to stay calm during calamity, build morale, and helps keep a steady rudder.
Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)
Any fight is won or lost in our heads long before the battle begins. Predisposing ourselves to a negative outcome usually results in a self-fulfilling prophecy - failure. As leaders, we need weather each storm with PMA and predispose ourselves to making it through - unscathed and unharmed (and maybe a little bit wiser from the wear). PMA is more than just good thoughts - it's positive action. It's putting the walk to the talk. Leaders that model PMA will see no decline in momentum when the storm gets rough. On the contrary, when the high winds come, they will experience the willingness of each team member to collaborate and stay focused on getting through it together. Keep the PMA - it spreads like wildfire!
Each of us, as leaders, should be like a willow tree. Strong in our core, firmly rooted in our values, and able to flex up top to keep from snapping as the storm wanes. Being rooted but flexible allows us to keep decisions in alignment with our values but also meet the needs of the organization and team without hypocrisy. Change is stressful and, usually, generates more change. If we "flip flop" and are "loosey goosey" in decision making, it only generates more stress. Consistency of effort and living in alignment with values demonstrates that there are no hidden agendas, conflicts or contradictions. Stress and uncertainty call for a leader to be calm and certain. Stay firmly rooted - you may lose a few leaves but, in the end, you will weather the storm. Be the "real deal!"
We live in a fast-paced, continually changing world and there is no quick "antidote" for dealing with the stress that accompanies it. Weathering the storm and preparing for the next round requires a continual effort of thought and action. Yes, sure and steady wins the race - every time! These suggestions are YOUR starting place to decrease team anxiety, build rapport, and ensure that everyone gets through it together. This isn't a dress rehearsal, it's the only life you have - take the risk and step up!
Chip is a retired Navy officer with 22 years’ leadership experience. He served as Commanding Officer of two separate Navy facilities and was the Director of Security for Naval District Washington, DC, during September 11, 2001. Additionally, he is adjunct faculty for two colleges where he teaches classes in leadership, teamwork, and organizational behavior.