May 4, 2020

Consistency in Leadership Even in an Inconsistent Environment

There’s a limit to consistency in business today. Whether it’s because the markets are swinging wildly, the fate of the organization is uncertain or changes in technology mean the organization is shifting…change is in the air.

It’s the leader’s responsibility to balance consistency in being both adaptive and responsive in a crisis, making decisions and communicating information as needed. Consistency, or a lack thereof, is just one of the barriers to organizational change.

What matters most is looking at all the factors involved and making changes that are in the best interests of team members and the organization, while keeping an eye on the checkpoints and benchmarks that ensure business continuity.

This might look like telling your team, “We’re still doing this but now it’s going to look like that.” The 2-hour Monday morning team meeting might now be a 90-minute Zoom call. The daily roundtable discussions might now be a series of quick Slack messages from home offices. The once-abundant overtime opportunities might now be a lottery system that employees must sign up for.

The goal is still the same, to meet the revenue goals and maintain the status quo; how you get to that goal will change. But you can’t assume that employees can make these transitions on their own. They need support and training to ensure they’re all on board.

It’s a hazard of leadership in general that some of the things we do aren’t productive in the first place. That 2-hour Monday team meeting, for example. Can you accomplish the same amount in a tightened-up call that’s a quarter less time? The answer is likely yes.

How You Show Up Matters

Times of change and adversity are a good time to recalibrate and reset things we’ve done in the past that are value-added. But it’s also important to remain calm, assured and communicate that you have a sense of direction in where you’re going as a team or as an organization.

Be mindful that if you show up vastly different than you normally are, you’ll be met with confused and concerned employees. But if you take time to process your feelings first about any impending change, you’ll be in a calmer space before talking to your team. And that puts your team members at ease so they’re ready to hear your message and get on board with the changes.

Change Doesn’t Change Your Feelings

We all experience cognitive dissonance sometimes. You’re on board with organizational change in theory, but in reality you see a bigger workload and stressed out team members in your immediate future.

While it’s true that change may benefit the organization in the long-term, you won’t always relish the work it requires in the short-term. If the gap between the perceived benefits of the change and the real work it will take to accomplish change is too long or too great, progress stalls and problems can arise.

Your feelings matter, but how you communicate about welcome or unwelcome changes matters more in the grand scheme of things. Talk about your feelings and encourage team members to talk about theirs as well. Left alone, contradictions between hoped for benefits and lived reality will fester and breed cynicism which in turn will undermine the change. Then, align your communication with expectations to make sure that people experience as much congruence between their expectations and actual outcomes as possible.