In today’s fast-moving environment, being able to embrace adversity and effectively adapt to change is the difference between a company barely surviving… and a company enthusiastically thriving.
Consumer expectations, advancements in technology, and the ebb and flow of the global economy change so rapidly and can be so challenging to navigate that having a well-thought-out business model, a popular brand identity, and a reputable product or service is just not enough for sustaining long-term success.
For leaders to incrementally gain market share, they must be self-aware (and team-aware), must learn to be reflexive and adapt quickly, and must create a safe, inclusive high performing culture with total buy-in and believe-in.
Here are the 4 key steps to implementing organizational change to allow your team and your business to continue to adjust, acclimate, and advance in the new post-pandemic world:
1. Identify the root issues
Awareness is always the first step. You will never fix something you are unaware of, and you will never improve something you are oblivious too.
Bottom line – you can’t change what you don’t (or are not willing) to see.
This requires honesty, vulnerability, and courage (three vital traits for every leader).
When any issue appears and creates any type of dysfunction in the workplace, it needs to be addressed immediately. Problems ignored don’t magically vanish!
And in many cases, this issue is simply the symptom, not the root cause. This issue is most likely just the tip of the iceberg, a sign of a much deeper problem.
So, before you start working on the solution, you need to identify the root cause.
The only way to do this effectively is to demonstrate sincere interest and genuine care for the people on your team by asking them for their perspective on what’s really going on within your organization. Every member of your team has a unique vantage point, which can be invaluable when identifying the root of an issue. As a leader, you only have one perspective (or vantage point), which in many cases isn’t enough.
If your team can only see you as their boss and not as an empathetic, compassionate human being… they may lack trust, belief, and confidence in sharing openly with you. They may default to telling you what they think you want to hear instead of the truth.
Therefore, you can’t afford to only lean on statistics and data. Once you start paying closer attention to your people rather than numbers, you’ll get more valuable insights than any charts or graphs can possibly provide.
Check in regularly with your team, actively listen to what they have to say, and focus on solving the things they identify as issues. Are they concerned about something you’re not aware of? Is there a lack of communication, cohesion, or collaboration? Do they feel supported? Appreciated? Do they feel they are making a maximum contribution to the team in their current role? Do they have an issue with a specific teammate?
2. Vision for a better future
As a leader, you need to acknowledge that your primary role is not to put out fires (reactive), it’s to reduce the occurrence of them happening in the first place (proactive)!
When you proactively recognize the root cause of common issues, you can save yourself – and your team – a tremendous amount of stress and strife.
You need to be crystal clear on your team’s vision, mission, purpose, standards, and core values… and articulate, reinforce, and emphasize them every… single… day.
There can’t be any vagueness or ambiguity.
Vague visions lead to vague results.
If it’s important, it needs to be talked about every… single… day. And what could be more important than your team’s vision, mission, purpose, standards, and core values?
But don’t just talk about it, be about it. Make sure as a leader you are modeling the behavior that you want to see in your team. After all, you can’t expect it of your team if you don’t expect if of yourself.
The attitude of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ is the quickest way to undermine your credibility.
Get crystal clear on where the team is heading and be equally clear on how you are going to get there! Make sure each member of your team knows their role, embraces their role, and stars in their role as well as knows exactly how their work fits into the big picture.
Then create a culture of accountability where everyone on the team knows holding someone accountable is something you do for them, not something you do to them.
All of this starts with a clear vision!
3. Openness to adapt
The most effective leaders – in sports of business – make the effort to lean into and embrace change and have a high openness to adapt.
They are always looking to grow, to improve, and to evolve.
They never cling to archaic ideologies like, ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it.’
They innovate, they are flexible, and they don’t get permanently tethered to any process or system.
The reality is that every aspect of our world is changing rapidly right in front of our eyes, whether we like it or not.
Instead of getting fixated on what we can’t control (circumstances and events), elite leaders put all of their attention into their response.
“You can’t change the waves, but you can learn to surf!”
Change is never easy, and it takes self-awareness, humility, and courage to admit that some of your previous approaches are not serving you (or your team) well anymore.
The openness to constantly adapt your approach is a game changer.
4. Devise a practical strategy
Once you’ve identified the root issues, created a vision for a better future, and you are openly willing to adapt… you need to tie it all together and devise a practical strategy for the organizational change you want to implement.
As they say, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
There is a reason that saying has been around longer than I’ve been breathing… it’s true!
This is the final step that moves you from dreaming and discussing to executing and implementing.
I often compare the role of a sports coach or business leader to that of an orchestra conductor. Your job is to get everyone to play their respective instrument to the best of their ability and to do so in rhythm with the group… so the result is a beautiful symphony!
But there is one very important nuance that usually goes unnoticed. The conductor is always one beat ahead!
That’s because the conductor is the one who has the complete set of directions for each instrument, and by giving a beat before each musician plans, they become aware of primed for what beat is next.
The same principle applies in business – you need to be a forward-thinking leader who knows every aspect of the music, so you can balance the dynamic tempo changes, and get everybody to play their instruments to the best of their abilities!
And just like the musical notes are written before they start playing, you need to create a practical strategy in advance… don’t try to wing it! Can you imagine how a symphony would sound without each musician following a plan? If they all just picked up their instruments and started playing whatever they wanted, however they wanted?
So, write the musical score you want your team to follow.
Then clearly articulate that to them.
Put them in the right positions to maximize their talents/strengths so that they can maximize their individual contribution.
Make sure your plan is in alignment with your team’s vision, mission, purpose, standards, and core values… and be prepared to revisit each of these steps when you hit a speedbump!