Instead of fighting or freezing in the face of change, teams can learn to make different choices. In leading change, we lean forward into the unknown, together.
Is your change initiative stuck? Instead of collaboration and motivation, do you see blame, stonewalling, contempt and defensiveness? Is your team divided?
If so, you are not alone. Pushing change can be painful and exhausting, if we have neither the knowledge, awareness, intentional mindset or skill to move in a different way.
Disruptive change has become the norm in our world, our communities and our organizations. More and more, teams once tasked with delivering on clearly defined tasks and producing clearly defined outcomes are living with the certainty that the future is uncertain. We are indeed in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) times.
Often, we know that change is needed, but can’t wrap our heads around how to make it happen. We can’t quite see clearly what we need to do, or when and how.
We are disoriented, confused, and off-balance at the brink of change – on edge and fearful of falling into the abyss.
Good leaders set a condition where who we are as human beings is not only important for business results, it makes up the magnificence of who we are as human beings.
We can be honest, open and vulnerable with each other and we create a culture where being human is not only OK, it’s actually just exactly what it needs to be and it’s the best for building organizations that produce results.
This is the point where we have choices.
We can choose to fight against change, expanding vast supplies of energy and creating drama, attempting to stay in the land of comfort. Trying to go back to the way things once were, to claw back what we once had.
We can choose to move away from the edge and flee, becoming highly critical and distant about all the reasons why the change that needs to happen is not the right thing to do.
We can choose to not move at all and stay frozen at the edge, stuck in a no man’s land, a waiting room. We wait for someone, anyone – well-intentioned or not, skilled or not – to lead us somewhere. Anywhere.
All these choices are often taken at once, often unconsciously, driven by a variety of assumptions that include:
- if we win and are better than the others, we will be secure
- if we are right, we will have worth
- if someone gives us clear expectations and we meet them, we will be safe.
Does this sound like you and your team in the face of change? Has the strain shut down progress? Are there divisions in your team, or between teams in your organization? Are toxic behaviours appearing, making the environment unpleasant, even ugly?
It is possible to choose another way. What does effective change look like, sound like, and feel like?
Our fast-paced, rapidly changing global environment frequently places teams in a development gap. In Scaling Leadership, Bob Anderson and Bill Adams share that leadership must evolve to meet the challenges we collectively face.
Many teams lack the developmental capability for leading change together rather than turning into warring factions. Think West Side Story. Are you willing to die on a metaphorical hill?
What’s more, do your team members really think so differently?
Often, teams at war in change actually care about similar if not the same things. Leading change enables conflicted team members to align on the big opportunity. The first step is to identify what matters to everyone involved.
In his book Drive, career analyst Daniel Pink describes three intrinsic motivations that propel team members forward:
- Autonomy – the perception of having a choice and a voice in change
- Mastery – the ability to grow and develop during change, and the personal and team opportunities that may arise through change
- Purpose – the ability to do work that matters for a cause that matters.
How does this apply to leading change? When we enable Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose (AMP) in leading change, we AMPlify the power of relationship to support meaningful change. We also inspire and motivate a sense of urgency through change.
It is powerful relationships that create meaningful change.
Effective change is complex. In a fast-paced and rapidly evolving world, simply managing change is not enough.
Leading change effectively requires that we release control and embrace evolution. Change leaders involve every team member in creating the change we want to see, establishing a collaborative and innovative environment.
The key is to learn to lead change together.
Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., leads change for a world of change, coaching pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. As principal of Novalda, Kerry develops change leadership capability in organizations and social systems.
Question | What signs suggest that your team is stuck?
Want to explore these ideas further?
- Learn the difference between managing and leading change
- Become a change leader
- Are you brave enough?