When It Is Time For A Reset
Organizational teams in any setting, corporate, government, education and non-profit organizations, have to quickly change direction as never before. In many situations the only practical way to start again is to keep going. Starting afresh in team building is a luxury that organizations and leaders sometimes do not have.
Whether it is an issue of time or resources, organizations often must respond to changing game plans with the teams that are already in place. If you are the leader responsible for the outcome of change and the health of your team, the burden can be immense.
Responding To The Adaptive Challenge
In discussions about leadership and transformation this has been referred to as the adaptive challenge. It is often existential; not changing may mean the end of the organization.
At such times the pressure can be overwhelming. The stress of changing habits, behaviors and core beliefs can be greater than the stress of facing failure. This is where your leadership will be the defining factor.
Reframing In Preparation For Transformation
Some of the best advice for leading transformational change is the most practical. As a leader you must become a storyteller. You must define the narrative and cast the challenge in the right frame to facilitate change.
Communicate the importance of this new narrative to build a agreement for the need to change and allow the team time to internalize their “What’s In It For Me” (WIFFM). Stand back and get the big picture to know when to step in and engage directly in the process on a personal level. Seek out, highlight and celebrate small victories to reinforce the new way of working.
Be prepared to ask questions of team members and actively listen to their points of view. When they have good ideas reward them and praise them publically. You will need advocates at such a stressful time and, by including the viewpoints of key members of your team, they will be motivated to support the goal of transformation.
Prepare To Bear The Burden
As you lead your team through transformation you are going to need strength. You will need to be both the compass and the anchor. There will be frustrations, disappointments and stress. The manor in which you respond will set the response of your team.
A Metaphor To Tell The Story Of The Role Of Leadership In Team Transformation
As the leader responsible for transforming your team, you will have to focus your energies on encouraging, explaining and reinforcing the message and celebrating the progress of the change.
I like the metaphor of the dance floor and the balcony in leading transformation. At some time you must ascend to the balcony. From that vantage point you will be able to see the big picture and where and with whom you must engage directly. Once you know what needs to be done, move down to the dance floor and dance with your team as everyone transforms.
Bolman, Lee G., and Terrence E. Deal. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership. Fourth Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2008.
Heifetz, Ronald A., and L. Donald Laurie. The Work Of Leadership. December 2001. http://hbr.org/2001/12/the-work-of-leadership/ar/3 (accessed September 27, 2014).
Northouse, Peter G. Leadership Theory and Practice. Fourth Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2007.