Three Questions Your People Will Ask During Change What Leaders Should Know When Leading Teams Forward
Our team is experiencing significant change. In a few weeks we open a new clinic. Simultaneously, we are transitioning through a major IT change in our electronic medical records department. And on top of that, we took over the management of a Physical Therapy clinic this month.
As we navigate all the change, I recognize that people ask three questions in times of change which all leaders should be aware of and address as they lead their teams forward.
Are we going to be okay?
I know of several clinics that open new branches, only to shut them down and lay off people months later. As a team, it is natural for individuals to be concerned this will happen to them. So even though you may not hear this question aloud, I assure you that some, if not most, are asking, “Are we okay?” and, “Are we going to be okay?” Even I am asking these questions.
During times of change, perceptive leaders anticipate this question and proactively assure people that our team will be okay. The leadership discipline here is that we must not ignore how our people feel even though we are knee-deep in the details of change. The minute you lose your people’s trust, you have lost. It takes a long time to regain trust. When we fail to address this question proactively, the morale of the team will fall.
How can we be sure things will be alright? What if we are unsure? Like a captain charging uphill on a battlefield, knowing in his heart his platoon can make it—confidence distinguishes great leaders. He knows they can make it because of experience, the people in his care, and his faith in what is possible. It’s not reason that wins the day for that captain, but sheer grit in the face of a large mountain.
We are going to be okay cannot be empty bravado and rhetoric. It must be authentic. Reach deep into your own soul to find confidence, then tell everyone, We will succeed. We will get it done. Follow me. In dire circumstances, people follow the leader. This is the time to be strong, to ride the horse with a bare chest like William Wallace in Braveheart, and speak courage to your people.
Am I going to be okay?
While we may be assured that as a team or organization we will be okay, during change individuals will ask a slightly different question, Am I going to be okay? People may worry what will happen to their position. Will they be sent off somewhere else or given a new position they don’t like? Or worse, will they be removed or laid off? They may begin to question the value they add to the team during periods of change, or in the next period to come. And certainly, they will weigh heavily how these potential professional changes may affect their personal lives.
These natural questions we all ask must be predicted by the leader and addressed before they reach the point of worry and stress. This must be addressed on a personal level, one-on-one. Think of each person who reports to you during change, and make sure they know that not only will the team will be okay, but as individuals they are secure and valued.
During times of change I practice one simple discipline. I spend more time with my people, not less. Even if our routine is to meet weekly, I make contact every day or every other day.
How will this change benefit me?
As leaders, we often see how the change will benefit us personally, benefit the organization as a whole, and benefit individuals on the team. After all, we may have orchestrated and led the change, and naturally have thought about the benefits for a while. Thus, the need for change makes sense to us. But many times we fail to communicate the benefits to others, and afford them a little time to internalize what we share, and even hear their feedback. Sharing the benefits of the change is a prime opportunity to rally your team to personally support what is being addressed.
Lastly, and most importantly, when we truly care about our people, we offer them security and peace of mind because it is the right thing to do. It’s not to make sure they follow us like obedient little children. They choose to be with us; we must not take them for granted. You and I are entrusted with the lives of others, and we must take our responsibility seriously.
It is an honor to lead. That’s why we should treat people with dignity and respect. Anticipating questions and concerns and communicating honestly and openly about the changes must come from a place of love. It’s not merely an exercise in applying another leadership tool. Great leaders love people. I pray you and I always grow in that devotion to the lives entrusted to us.
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