Can We Work It Out? Leading Until We Do

Illustration courtesy of Pixabay.

Try to see things my way, do I have to keep on talking til I can’t go on…

Anytime I can connect Motown and leadership it’s a good day. One of my favorite songs is Stevie Wonder’s version of We Can Work it Out. The song reminds me of recent conversations with leaders who are wondering if they can work it out as they seek to bring change to their teams and organizations. As they plead with team members to see things from a new perspective, team members are asking leaders to also see things from their perspective. The good news is they can work it out (so can we in our country, but that’s a different subject. All I will say is check out this UC Berkeley resource on bridging differences.). Whenever we are asked to bring new processes to a space where people have clung to the old ways of doing and being at work, resistance is natural. Here are four points to consider:

  1. Change is hard.
  2. Change is scary.
  3. Change is a form of transition.
  4. Transitions often cause people to question if they can measure up to what’s next.

Most of us are aware of our own fears around change, but how often do we slap on a plastic smile and work twice as hard to perform (or grit our teeth through it) to cover our fears? While there is no magic formula to make change less scary, here are three relational perspectives that may generate helpful dialogue.

  1. Listening precedes understanding. Leaders may find that they are doing a lot of talking, but is anyone listening? Make space to listen team member’s fears and concerns.
  2. Identify the language. Leaders often describe their visions as innovative, exciting, compelling, etc. Team members may use language that includes expletives as they feel burdened by the changes. How does your team describe the changes you’re proposing?
  3. Shared language precedes agreement to change. As much as possible, invite team members to move from passive to active stake holders. How can you co-create new language around the upcoming changes. Visions flourish when there are shared values and language.

Indeed leaders can work it out with their teams to successfully navigate change. As you’re seeking to take your team to higher ground, be patient with the time it takes for people to adjust. 2020 has been a year of monumental change for many of us. Let’s be patient with one another as well. Heaven help us all.