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Friday, June 14, 2024
CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Agenda - How to steer your people through uncertainty and relentless change

CEO Agenda

How to steer your people through uncertainty and relentless change

Leah Mether

More than 2,500 years ago, Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change.” Fast-forward to 2024, and his words couldn’t ring truer. The pace of change and rate of uncertainty seems to be accelerating quicker than ever. Whether it’s adjusting to new industry standards, recovering from natural disasters, adapting to new technologies, or dealing with high staff turnover and skills shortages, leaders are facing a whirlwind of challenges.

Leading through change and uncertainty often feels relentless; like you’re steering your team through a storm. It’s tough and at times you may feel like you’re dragging, pushing, pulling, cajoling and fighting tantruming toddlers, rather than leading a team. While it can be tempting to tell your people to toughen up and just get on with it, ignoring their emotions and fears won’t help. People drive performance, but if we don’t pay attention to how they feel during uncertain times, they’ll likely drive problems instead through unproductive behaviour, conflicts, disagreements, distractions, increased stress leave, and resignations. Ignoring your employees’ emotions can be costly.

But dealing with people, their feelings, challenges, and behaviours is hard work. It requires courage, not confidence. And this courage probably looks different in action to what you’d expect. It’s not about being bold, brash, commanding and demanding. Rather, it involves balancing warmth with strength, candour with compassion, and consistency with adaptability. It means facing the feelings head-on, being vulnerable, and sitting with the anger and frustration of your people while guiding them towards a better place.

To successfully steer your team through uncertainty and relentless change, it’s essential to remember the five Cs:

  1. CREATE CLARITY
    Begin by making what you can clear. Define what the change is, why it’s happening and how it will benefit or impact the team. Transparency is key, even if you don’t have all the answers. Share as much information as you can, including what you know and what you’re doing about it. Keep your messages simple and straightforward to avoid confusion. Address uncertainties by explaining what you don’t know yet and outlining how you’ll keep people informed when you do have more detail.
  2. CONNECT WITH CURIOSITY
    Make the time to listen and connect with your people. Show them you care and get curious about their feelings, concerns and responses to the change. This empathetic approach builds trust and ensures your people feel seen, heard and understood. The better you understand your people, the more effectively you can lead them.
  3. CHALLENGE WITH CANDOUR
    Navigating change is hard but you and your people have a choice about how you respond. Absolutely, empathise with where your people are at, but continue to hold them accountable for their performance, behaviour, and getting the job done. Don’t shy away from tough conversations during change but do remember to stay hard on the issue, soft on the person.
  4. COACH WITH COMPASSION
    Support and encourage your people to find their own answers to the challenges they face during change. Do this by making the time to meet one-on-one with your staff and having coaching conversations. This doesn’t have to be a formal sit down, it can be a conversation side-by-side while completing a task. Coaching conversations are not about rescuing, pity, or providing quick-fix answers. They’re about asking questions, prompting reflection, and empowering your people to take personal responsibility for finding their own solutions, while offering compassionate support as their leader.
  5. COMMIT WITH CONSISTENCY
    Leading through change is not a one-time thing. It’s a process that requires commitment and consistency, repetition and reinforcement. Many changes fail because they are over-managed and under-communicated. Change leadership and messages need to be instilled into day-to-day activities in new and varied ways. You need to keep banging the drum. Keep communicating, behaving and acting consistently to build trust so your people are willing to follow you through the uncertainty.

Picture this: change is happening across your organisation and your people are processing their feelings, behaving appropriately, and still delivering results as part of a productive team. They may not like the change and still have concerns but they’re working through that with you, not against you. They are not resisting, blocking or arguing because they feel supported, cared for and understood. Following the five Cs as a leader through change will help shift your team towards acceptance, allowing you to steer through the storm to calmer waters with your ship and your crew intact.


Written by Leah Mether.
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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Agenda - How to steer your people through uncertainty and relentless change

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Leah Mether
Leah Mether, author of Steer Through the Storm: How to Communicate and Lead Courageously Through Change (Ingram Spark, $25.00), is a communication specialist obsessed with making the people part of leadership and work life easier through the development of “soft skills”. Renowned for her engaging style as a trainer, speaker and facilitator, Leah helps leaders and teams shift from knowing to doing, and radically improve their effectiveness.


Leah Mether is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with her through LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website CLICK HERE.