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.