A new state of normal has crept into our lives – it’s the realisation that ‘change’ is ever-present and is here to stay. Older generations are experiencing change fatigue as our younger generations see it as business as usual and wonder what the fuss is all about. Having both these attitudes existing in the same workforce is a challenge facing most leaders. I believe that workplace and community leaders are in a unique position in our human history and we have an opportunity to create something new and different in the way we organise our world of work. Our approaches to the next phase of organisational development will require new ways of thinking, strategising, teamwork and leading. We find ourselves in a time of respectful openness, creativity, learning, sharing, knowledge creation, technological connections and jobs that tap into who we are and what legacy we wish to leave. Just when we thought that there was nothing left to discover, we are facing a chasm of discovery. How do we find new ways to lead and solve problems in this landscape?
Historically, managing change in the old paradigm centred on project management, risk management and step by step change management models and processes. The new paradigm does not replace the old, it ADDS to the old. Leadership in itself is not restricted in size or capacity, so completely replacing one approach for another is a recipe for failure. As leaders we need to respect our past lessons and add the patterns as they emerge.
Leadership thought and development has focussed solely (and for too long) on what individual leaders can bring to the working environment. Their personal traits and communication style are the most commonly talked about attributes. It’s now time to add to this and reinvent our critical roles as leaders by focussing on our followers. They represent the human side to the ‘managing change equation’. As the old paradigm centres on project management, the new paradigm will add the human element. Here are some constants about our followers to consider and some ways to tap into these to get the best out of our change efforts:
The capacity to create knowledge is in all of us.
- Allow space for people to dream, create and look outside your organisation
- Reduce the systemic barriers to open, flowing communication
- Accept that some discussions do not lead to measureable outcomes
- Move beyond the first and most obvious solution when problem solving
The capacity to learn is in all of us.
- Uncover the different learning styles in your team
- Put learning on the agenda at every meeting
- Conduct a learning debrief for every success and failure
- Capture learning explicitly by making or buying a lessons learnt information system (LLIS)
The capacity to adapt is in all of us.
- Encourage new experiences – when was the last time you did something for the first time?
- Use ‘action learning teams’ for difficult problems
- Keep a history of your organisation and celebrate how far you have come
- Embrace your vision and imagine it achieved
The capacity to be human is in all of us.
- Invest in people; financially and emotionally
- Talk about empathy and emotional intelligence – for everyone; not just leaders
- Discover what makes people tick to tap into their motivation to change
- Tackle the fear of failure that is innate in most of us – it’s ok to make mistakes, as long as you’re not making the same mistake over and over again
The new paradigm is about harnessing all of these, rallying the culture to create something unique and finally recognising that we all play an important part when trying to cope with changes that are thrust upon us. Is your leadership style attuned to focussing on your followers?
We can talk all we like about developing resilience in our workforce – at the end of the day it’s the experiences that we have that develop our resilience as leaders and as followers. After all, you cannot learn to swim by reading a book! You will eventually have to get your feet wet and then your whole body.
So go ahead and immerse yourselves in a new leadership experience where you are supporting others while you are changing together.
Former Senior HR Consultant