If you’ve ever thrown a rock into a calm lake, you’ve seen that the disturbance is felt well beyond where the rock initially enters the water. Much like the rock’s ripple effect on water, how leaders lead during times of change can have similar, far-reaching consequences.
Enacting significant change requires that leaders have a positive ripple effect rather than a neutral or, worse yet, a negative one, as their influence and impact is felt well beyond themselves. But how is that done with major, large-scale changes? At Interstates, we recently experienced this when we made the move to become One Interstates – An Agile Organization. It required significant mindset changes by all leaders, many of whom were not involved in the decision, to begin with. And it was done by keeping the following insights in mind.
As a leader, you must first confront and be honest with yourself about how changes are personally affecting you. Once identified, you can work towards the goal of understanding, connecting with and ultimately owning the change as if it was your own by talking privately with the appropriate leaders.
Leaders must lead from the front of their teams. Intentionally using ownership terminology such as “our” and “us” and avoiding language like “they” or “them” when talking about where the change initiated will communicate a more positive perspective. The leader must also encourage their team to ask questions and continue the dialogue of the “what” and “why” behind the change. This will increase understanding about the change and will lessen the challenge of getting buy-in from your team.
Leaders must not run from concerns raised about change. Pushback will happen at some level, and this is okay. Change often elicits a sense of grief or loss for people, which is a natural human response. Listening well and showing empathy is critical during these situations, as is remaining honest if you don’t know all the answers (because you won’t). Quickly addressing concerns and finding solutions will avoid feelings of uncertainty turning into negative and potentially toxic attitudes.
As a leader, following these steps will help you and your team navigate change well. This will, in turn, create a positive ripple effect throughout your entire organization. In Interstates’ case, the One Interstates change began being implemented in the middle of 2019, starting the journey of becoming more agile to better support our clients. To be frank, this was a daunting change, even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Thankfully, because of many great leaders at Interstates and supportive clients, vendors, and partners, Interstates is now more agile and stronger than ever. Of course, we have learned and continue to learn many lessons from this part of our story, but with strong leaders having a positive ripple effect, our change has been successful and worthwhile.
This article was originally published in the Current Connections Winter 2021 issue.
Daren Dieleman, Director of Operations