Leading Through Change

I have been thinking a lot about leading through change, especially about how, even though I am not a leader by title, I can still be a leader by example. My work is currently going through some changes. They are all good and I am excited to see where they take us. But they are hard, because change is hard, on everyone. Even something as simple as rearranging the furniture and changing desks can trigger something in people that makes them forget why they come to work every day.
The other interesting piece is talking with customers as they adjust to changes in their relationship with the company. We recently made two major announcements, one that had a generally positive effect on people, even though they felt it was negative, and a second which either positively affected a member or had a significant negative affect on them. Ultimately, both changes were necessary for our company to maintain sustainability and be able to offer even greater benefit down the road. But change is hard, especially when it comes in the form of less dollars in a pocket. Part of my job is to assist my CEO with answering the barrage of questions he gets when announcements are made. I write in his voice, he approves, edits and the messages are sent to our members. Suddenly, I am acting the leader and am leading through change.
This is what I have learned from assisting my CEO in this way.
  • Start with empathy and understanding.
  • Provide them an avenue to express their concerns.
  • Let the team know you are listening to what they have to say.
  • Give reply to their concerns with heartfelt sincerity and as much transparency as is possible.
  • Make changes to your change when necessary and where possible.
  • Reassure them by providing extra resources to aid in their understanding of why the change is necessary.
  • And finally, you will not be able to please everyone. You will lose members of your customer base, you may lose members of your team.
  • Keep your sights on the vision and what is best for the company. Do not allow the negative to bring you down or second guess your capability.
Reading John Maeda’s book and then reading the articles and learning about the vote of no confidence and talking in class, brought a lot of this into perspective. It is hard to say if he was a success or not at his school, despite the number one ranking. Ultimately, we do the best we can through change and with each failure we must pick ourselves up, see what we’ve learned and try again. A good leader will get it right most of the time.

“The Scared is scared”

I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to write about tonight because there is so much. I just finished reading “Redesigning Leadership” by John Maeda, it felt honest, unassuming, forgiving and kind to read. There are a lot of leadership books where ego gets in the way of the lesson; they feel like a “you’re doing it wrong” read. Just from this 80-ish page book, I have five items I want to work on personally in my professional life.

The first is less emoticons in emails. I’m not over the top but I tend to default to them, either to indicate a literal smile or to soften a disagreement. It is like I am yelling, “I am still on your side! I still support you! (But this is wrong and here is my idea.” That doesn’t make sense. People know who I am; I do not need to reassure them of anything.

The second is no arm crossing in meetings. I’m aware of this as it is and try to smile to counteract the arm crossing. It is just more comfortable, but I’ll figure something else out.

The next is related, be a “wannabe.” We all have meetings we don’t want to go to. But I love my job, so I wannabe there. Show it.

Similarly, be open-minded. I get protective of my projects, but different perspectives make them better.

And finally, remember “intention at the beginning matters.” If I intend to improve all these things because I want to be a better co-worker, employee, leader, etc. people will see that and I will get there.

I also want to say that Bianca Giaever’s video was a timely reminder to use my overactive imagination to imagine away the scared and focus on the positive. Who doesn’t need that?

the Scared is scared from Bianca Giaever on Vimeo.