Take a Trip to Funky Town and Help Your Team Normalize the New Normal of Change
Change is everywhere. Resistance is futile. Eventually, we will all be assimilated, right? That reference is for my old-school Star Trek fans.
We all recognize that change is inevitable. And as much as we may try to resist it, change will come whether we like it or not.
As humans, we are predictably resistant to change, and we are biologically hardwired to our habits. These two innate human responses are detrimental to our careers and professional growth due to the ever-changing world around us. For leaders who are deep in the work of cultivating change-ready cultures, understanding the human response to resist change is essential.
We, and the teams we lead, like the familiar, the predictable, and the comfortable. Change throws all of that out the window and forces us to adapt.
Talk About It, Talk About It, Talk About It: A Journey to Funky Town
In my professional career, I remember the Tuesday FedEx package that came every week from the corporate office, crammed with papers, communications, agendas, company directives, newsletters, and oh, so much more. Yes, we killed a lot of trees back in the day, and yep, this was in the pre-email days. But I lived it, and I survived it. I also recall when I got my first pager. Nope, not a cell phone that came a couple of years later, but a pager. Boy, was that cool. I walked around with this black box clipped on my belt, anxiously awaiting the buzz that would let me know I was needed. I would then quickly exit the freeway, search desperately for the nearest gas station (in the pre-GPS days as well), and hope I had enough change built up in my car’s ashtray to pay for a call. I know it sounds trivial, but wow, these changes really rocked my world. I was a working mom with young kids at home. It was life-changing to know that they could page me and that I could quickly find a pay phone to call them back.
While having a pager seemed cool for a hot moment in time, the key is that it was just that—a moment in time before the next latest and greatest device came into our work world to change up how we did what we did.
Engaging with your team members and sharing stories like this is crucial to cultivating change-ready cultures. The more we ‘talk about it, talk about it, talk about’ (anyone get this musical reference?) If so, you and I both started thinking about taking a trip to “Funky Town.” The more we reassure our team that the current change they face will one day be considered just a “hot moment in time,” the more comfortable they become with change. We all know that more exciting and advanced changes will soon replace this new software they resist using.
Continually talking about change, sharing your stories of change, and having team members reflect on their own journeys of change are key drivers of cultivating change-ready cultures.
To learn more key skills to elevate your change leadership capabilities, check out my latest leadership courses, where I delve into many facets of change leadership.
Engaging in Conversations About Past Changes: Strategies for Incorporating Communications About Change in Your Day-to-day Business Rhythm
Let’s explore easy ways leaders can open up conversations about change.
- As an ice-breaker during a team meeting, a leader can ask each attendee to think about and share their experience of a past change the team has gone through and the positive impact it had on the team and the organization. This can help create a sense of shared ownership and understanding of how the team has adapted to change in the past and help the team remember the benefits that came from that change.
- A leader can organize a team-building activity where team members reflect on past changes they’ve experienced and discuss what they learned and how they learned to adapt to the change individually. This can help team members feel more connected to each other and elevate their self-confidence in navigating the upcoming change.
- A leader can set up one-on-one conversations with team members to discuss their individual experiences of the team’s past changes. This can help the leader to understand how the change impacted team members personally and how they adapted, and it can also help team members to feel heard and valued by their leader.
This last idea reminds me of a quote I’ve had hanging on my office wall for many years. I would often reflect on how I could intentionally converse with my team to better understand how they thought about their work experience instead of just “what” they were thinking about any given program or newly introduced change.
How to Foster an Open-minded Environment When Approaching Conversations About Change
It is essential for leaders to approach conversations about change with an open mind to create an environment of trust and collaboration. Employees need to feel safe, comfortable, and secure in order to provide meaningful contributions and feedback, both positively and constructively. Leaders who remain open-minded during change conversations will more likely receive honest perspectives from their employees that can help shape the changes being discussed.
Open-minded leaders encourage dialogue instead of strict adherence to a single idea or plan; this collaborative approach builds trust within a team and facilitates improved communication.
Open-minded leaders listen and consider different perspectives from employees; show empathy, and be willing to compromise.
Open-minded leaders avoid being overly directive. They allow space for creative input from employees and provide resources that empower them with knowledge.
Open-minded leaders are receptive to both positive and constructive feedback. They use it as an opportunity to improve and better understand their team’s needs.
Open-minded leaders keep communication lines open by providing updates, asking questions, and revisiting topics for further discussion.
To learn more tips on becoming a more open-minded leader, check out my leadership learnable below. I share a diverse array of free micro-learnings at alicemeredith.com that leaders can use to refresh their leadership capabilities or share with team members they are developing for a future leadership role.
By consistently engaging with our team members and sharing meaningful stories about past changes, we create environments of growth and resilience that help cultivate change-ready cultures.
Creating a culture that is ready for change requires intentional effort from leaders at all levels of an organization; it’s not something that can happen overnight or without careful planning or thoughtfulness about how best to approach it strategically.
Leadership is a journey of learning! Keep learning my friends!