The Leadership Blog

Navigating the Waves of Change

change change management courageous leadership leadership personal growth professional growth Jan 28, 2024

Hey there, fellow navigators of the corporate seas! Today, let's dive into the often-tumultuous waters of change management. Change is the only constant, they say, and in the business world, it's more relevant than ever. How do successful businesses steer through the storm of change and come out stronger on the other side? Let's unpack this together with insights from seasoned business sources.

Tip 1: Set Clear Objectives and Communicate Transparently

Imagine setting sail without a destination in mind. Sounds chaotic, right? The same goes for change within a business. According to retired Harvard Business School professor John P. Kotter, a renowned expert in leadership and change, setting clear objectives is crucial. It's not just about having a vision; it's about breaking it down into achievable goals. Communicate these goals transparently to your crew so everyone is on the same page.

"A shared vision creates a shared journey," says Kotter. If your team understands where you're heading and why, they're more likely to stay on board, even when the seas get rough.

Here’s one of my experiences navigating change.  When I took over the helm of PBS Charlotte in 2013, we had very few donors and very few viewers.  When I started making changes many team members wanted to mutiny.  They didn’t see the need, because no one had shared the data with them.  When I gave them access to the reality of just how bad the numbers were, they saw the need to change and change we did.  We upgraded the look of the station, improved the local production value, created more high-quality in-depth content and served the region with educational outreach.  The result…our viewer numbers and number of donors grew exponentially.

Tip 2: Foster a Culture of Adaptability

Change often meets resistance. People are creatures of habit and altering the status quo can be unsettling. But what if adaptability was part of your company's DNA? Harvard Business Review suggests that fostering a culture of adaptability is a game-changer.

Picture this: your crew is not just prepared for change; they embrace it. It's about encouraging a mindset that sees challenges as opportunities for growth. "Adaptability is not just about survival; it's about thriving in the face of change," notes HBR contributor psychologist Carol Dweck. Make adaptability a core value, and your ship will navigate the choppy waters with resilience.

Sounds good but you might be asking, “how do I do that?”  I’m bringing up data again.  Having a set of key performance indicators (KPI’s) that are discussed regularly in department meetings and full staff meetings keeps everyone on the same page and allows your crew to gauge performance.  If the numbers drop, it's everyone’s responsibility to explore what can be done to change the direction and make improvements.  Keeping your team focused on growth leads to adaptability.

Tip 3: Empower Your Crew with the Right Tools and Training

Ever tried to navigate a ship without a compass? It's impossible. Similarly, during times of change, your crew needs the right tools and training. Denise Lee Yohn, a brand leadership expert, author and TEDx speaker, emphasizes the importance of empowering your team.

"Equip your crew with the knowledge and skills they need to navigate the new waters," says Yohn. This could mean investing in training programs, upgrading technology, or providing access to resources. When your crew feels capable and confident, they're more likely to steer your ship through change with competence.

The biggest roadblock to equipping individuals is the dreaded phrase, “we’re too busy.”  Have you heard your staff say any of the following?

  • We don’t have time to take that class.
  • Our deadlines won’t allow us to attend that webinar.
  • I’m too busy to think about what training I need.

Generational differences can also come into play.  Boomers are more likely to be resistant to training, often because they think since they’ve been in the workforce so long, they know it all.  Gen Xers are more likely to just go along to get along.  Research shows Millennials and Gen Z’s are the most receptive to training opportunities.

Tip 4: Embrace Feedback and Iterate

In the business world, feedback is the compass that helps you stay on course. As per the wisdom shared by Forbes contributor and human resource expert Liz Ryan, embracing feedback is crucial during times of change.

"Feedback is the voice of your crew," Ryan says. Actively seek input, listen, and be willing to iterate your course based on what you hear. This not only makes your crew feel valued but also ensures that your ship stays on the right trajectory. After all, who knows the waters better than those sailing them daily?

Let’s bring our boat back into port, change is inevitable, but how you navigate it defines your success. With clear objectives, a culture of adaptability, empowered crew members, and a feedback loop, your business ship will not only weather the storm but thrive in the evolving seas of the corporate world. Now, set sail with confidence and let change be the wind in your sails!