So far I’ve covered the concepts that change leadership requires a vision and trust:
- Vision to provide direction
- Trust so that the team believes in the vision
I mentioned that the leadership begins by defining the “New End” (the vision). During the detailed “defining the new requirements and integrating with the progress to date, so we can figure out what we’re going to do” (or what I call the “Fog” period), change leadership also includes keeping people’s hope alive. Hope that the team can make it through this difficult period because of being in limbo.
Let’s go back to that hike on the trail that became foggy due to a low cloud over the mountain. Now you and your hiking mates can’t see more than 20 feet ahead and you’re not sure if the trailhead has been moved. What do you do?
- Call the park ranger on your cell phone?
- Discuss the situation with your buddies and define a plan?
- Walk for 20 feet and see if there is any more information to help your decisions?
- All of the above?
Who is the one who drives the discussion about the issue? Who starts asking for options and drives decision-making? A leader does, by taking the responsibility to acknowledge the problem and define a solution. And the action that the leader takes depends on the situation – the culture, the problem to be solved.
The period when the new requirements for the NEW END have not been defined specifically enough for the team to continue some of their tasks is a very uncertain time. There will be more questions than answers. Team members may start to act out their uneasiness by creating conflicts or starting rumors. This is when the leader needs to regularly communicate with the team and addresses their concerns.
Decisions will be made on what will and will not meet the new objectives. This will occur in numerous meetings between customers, managers and team members. Not everyone will know what is being decided at the same time. You may need to set up temporary teams to develop plans and make decisions. Temporary policies may also be needed to keep focus and clarify roles of authority. This would also be a good time to break down any “silos” that have been created between teams.
Leadership keeps the team focused on the end and works with the teams to make informed decisions. The team’s input is critical because they are the experts in what it will take to get the job done. And being involved in the decision-making also provides some control since they can influence the choices. People need hope through the uncertainty, in order to develop the optimism that the effort that is being taken will result eventually to the NEW END.
Confucius said”Leaders are dealers in hope.” Cold analysis of the facts may suggest that there is no possible way of accomplishing the goal, but leaders are true believers that the goal can be done.
When the environment is uncertain, good leaders are confident that this is a temporary situation and that the efforts being undertaken will get them to the new end. This is the message that a good leader conveys to his / her team. Isn’t that you would want while standing on the side of a mountain in the fog?