I have been fortunate this week to be not exactly present as history is made, but co-located with it at the very least. Working with a client in Midtown New York this week has given me the fantastic opportunity to get a sense of the response to the outcome of the Presidential election.
Donald Trump has succeeded in gaining the presidency, and right now half of the nation is invigorated, and the other half is downhearted, fearful even. What all sides have to deal with now is uncertainty. Trump’s campaign was light on policy detail and heavy on high-level soundbites – few actionable plans or proposals were put forward and new we are left with speculation as to what he will actually do when he assumes office. The US is pretty much the absolute definition of a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
As a leader at times you will find yourself in a position where those around you turn to you to ask you to help make sense of the world around them. Part of the responsibility of leadership is to support your peers, teams and organisations as the environment in which you work together changes and adapts, sometimes in highly surprising ways.
Contexts change and the ways in which we work and set our agendas must change with them. Your colleagues and teams are easily destabilised when the operating environment drastically changes – this is regardless of whether it is planned or unplanned change. With planned change you have the opportunity to set the framework in which this change is understood, with unplanned change you need to be more nimble and proactive.
As we see change rolling towards us we are immediately challenged in a number of ways:
The certainties about our plans and strategies are thrown up in the air
Our roles, tasks and our identities may feel under threat
We fear for the futures that we do not yet understand and cannot yet see
The duty of a leader is to ensure that those around you are supported when change appears on the horizon, and that your organisation is equipped to deal with the new reality you are presented with. This is a difficult thing to do, as almost certainly you will be sharing some of the doubts and worries that you are – here are three things you can do as a leader to help ease the path towards change within your organisation.
Listen – more than anything, those around you will want to be heard. Spend the time listening and hearing what they have to say – their hopes, fears and uncertainty about the changed context. Not only will they feel valued and part of the change rather than separate form it, you will also learn in ways that you might not expect. You might be exposed to new ways of thinking and acting that could create stronger responses to the change you are confronted with – you have a great resource in the people around you, listening and understanding may help you answer the questions you have yourself.
Be confident – in change we look for solid foundations form which to build. We look to our leaders to provide those foundations – this does not mean unwarranted confidence, but confidence in the things you are certain about, and confidence in the fact that a positive outcome will be reached. Your confidence should be contagious and keep doubts at bay, creating alignment on the long-term outcomes that you are working for.
Question your own certainties – before change came upon you, you had a perspective – once that change has come, your perspective may need to alter. The certainties that you have need to alter as much as those around you, and you need to think critically about how you do this. Your strategies, horizons and fixed points may well need to change – as you look for support for change in others you must first build it in yourself.
These three actions will not guarantee a smooth transition during change, but what they can do is ground your leadership actions in a way that enable you to navigate the challenges successfully.
Right now the world is waiting to see what the change that has been promised by Donald Trump will actually look like. If we are able to listen, be confident in what we are sure of and question our assumptions, perspectives and certainties we may just be able to chart a course through whatever comes next.