CHANGE: Will we ever get it?
It seems when I first started learning about change it was not that big of an issue. It appeared pretty straightforward. When things didn’t work like they should you found a new way and you adapted to the new way.
As I think about change today, I believe that the way we cope with it has even changed. Change comes significantly faster with fewer clear cut solutions or options available. It also seems the changes are far more intense, if not a full blown crisis. All of this makes it more difficult coping with change, especially as leaders.
For instance, the economic climate today has everyone on edge. Budgets for public and not-for-profit organizations are being cut at all levels, leading to great uncertainty. So how does a leader lead in this climate? How does a leader help staff stay positive while, at the same time, keep pushing them to change, even when the leader may not be certain how they should change?
I hear some say a leader must stay positive and keep the morale of staff high, even if it means faking it. These voices say a leader should give the impression that as soon as the crisis is over staff will be able to return to the way it was. Others say a leader must be brutally honest and “tell it like it is,” leaving people to cope with the change on their own or be overwhelmed by the process. This reminds me of the old “half-full” or “half-empty” adage about perception.
The problem I have with applying this adage to change today is that it is an either/or approach. I don’t find this approach working that well. The fact is that the changes we are facing will cause significant challenges for us because we cannot maintain the status quo. At the same time, these changes will not result in total destruction of life as we know it. The truth is that the glass is both half-full and half-empty at the same time. Life will not be the same, but it will continue to provide opportunities.
As a leader, it becomes necessary to walk a very fine line between creating a sense of security, while also creating a sense of urgency for change. Leaders must reassure staff that there will be a future for the organization and for the individuals within that organization, but it won’t be the same as it was in the past. Leaders must reinforce the need to identify new opportunities that will lead to a strong, relevant, and viable organization, although a different one. Leaders need to help staff see the opportunities that are possible and needed, while indicating that the status quo leads to the death of the organization.
Leaders must be able to help staff see that change, constant change, is the way it is and will be in the future. Leaders need to help staff understand how to finally “get it.”
Until next time, enjoy the summer and keep an open mind about the changes facing us.