Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #96: Leading in Times of Great Change
Being a leader of change in your organization is one thing. But, leading that change through unanticipated obstacles and a resistant team requires next-level leadership fortitude. In today’s episode, Chris and Perry share five best practices for leading in times of great change and uncertainty.
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Read the Transcript:
Perry Holley: Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to drive remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.
Chris Goede: And I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of the John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining! Listen, if you’d like to download the Learner’s Guide for today’s lesson, if you’d like to ask Perry and I a question, maybe even have a leadership topic that you’d like for us to talk about on a future podcast, I’d love for you to visit Johnmaxwellcompany.com/podcast, and you can download the Learner Guide there, you can leave a comment or question, or if you want to learn more about our Five Levels of Leadership model, please feel free to do that. Well as we continue our conversation on change, today’s topic is titled, “Leading in Times of Great Change”, and this conversation today is going to be a little bit different, and why I love this is that we have been talking about us driving change and leading through change and it being from an internal perspective, as we need to be a change agent. We don’t need to live in the status quo, sometimes there are external forces that just affect what we’re doing and how we lead and I think all of you are probably shaking your head right now listening going, oh, yeah, we’ve had the external force that’s driving the change that not only use a leader, your organization, but your team is feeling.
Perry: Yeah, my wife said it feels like we’re living in an episode of Stranger Things, because this year has only been a few months, but it feels like years. A lot of external forces hitting your team and I just was thinking through best practices as a leader because you are not exempt from needing to drive change in your organization, to increase your productivity, your revenue, satisfying client needs and delighting customers. Wow, there’s a lot going on, but your team is being hit, as you are, by external forces. So, maybe five best practice ideas. I’m sure there are more, you can probably add some to it yourself. But how do you lead in times of great change? And I thought I’d just give them to you and get your thoughts.
Chris: Hey, first of all, like you love the number five, don’t you? The five levels of leadership and then everything else from there is five.
Perry: A lot of people say that three is the right number, but I’m just a five guy.
Chris: I love it! I love it!
Perry: Alright, number one, best practice was I think you need to manage perspectives. Yours and the perspective of others. I know we’ve talked a lot about perspective principals over the over the weeks but how do you see that manage perspectives?
Chris: Yeah, we’re not going to dig into from a perspective standpoint here because I think that you have talked about it, we’ve talked about it on future podcast, but this is so relevant to when external forces of change are in place. It is so important, your team is watching you, you’ve taught us that over and over again all the time. And so, there’s a comment and I think John has said, or even you, maybe it was you, talks about how people view things will determine how we do things. And so, your team is watching how you’re viewing this external force that’s causing the change inside your organization, and so, you’ve got to make sure that your perspective is right, and your perspective is that of winning a positive perspective. Now, I don’t want you to have your head in the clouds, but I also don’t want you to have your head in the sand; and so I want you to kind of be right there in the middle. I was on a conversation last night with an individual and we were talking about this where other circumstances are putting pressure on limits and beliefs of an individual, of a team and one of the things I encouraged was pull back the curtain and control what you can control. There are things that none of us could control over the last couple of months, right? But there are things that we could control every single day in our own personal life. And so, I want you to have that mindset in this particular, you know, question about understanding perspectives, in regards to your perspective. The other thing is, when you talk about yours, and then others, you are going to get different perspectives from others, and I don’t want you to discount them. You may not connect with them, you may connect with them, but I want you to help coach them through the process and some of their perspectives if it’s on the negative side.
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Perry: One thing I had asked a number of people, do you think you can coach the perspective of someone else? And you get mixed answers on that. Can you change the way somebody sees things? But one thing that John said that really resonated with me was about having a positive life stance, like you said, I can’t control everything, but I can control me and I can control how I react and respond, and if I have a positive life stance, I just see the glass half full, do I have a different way of seeing things? And if I notice people on my team that are being affected, can I help move toward that positive life stance? Maybe that’s a way. Kind of brings up number two best practice I thought was, I just said, getting personal. I’ve noticed that each individual on my team handled what’s happened, and this has been quite big, but what’s happened, they’ve handled it differently. Some people are fearful, some are anxious, some don’t care, some think it’s a hoax. I mean, there’s a range of emotions that have gone there. But I find it helpful to have that close relationship to actually minimize the disruption due to the uncertainty or the anxiety that’s going on.
Chris: Yeah, this comes, again, a lot of change is going to be successful as you work and lead your way through that at the foundation of level two. And this is something that’s almost kind of become a life phrase for me which is the whole, “Listen, learn then lead”. And I think in times of change you need to understand where your teams at personally and what they’re going through. Even down to my daughter who’s going to be playing college volleyball they were on a Zoom call the other day and everything has changed about their workouts, their season, their report, all that has changed. And none of that was addressed in the first 20 minutes of the call, what was addressed was, “How are each of you ladies doing personally? Tell me what’s going on personally.” And what was great about it was it just wasn’t player or team member to leader or coach, it was the whole team. And what my daughter said was, “Man, I hadn’t really thought about how some people are dealing with it differently than I’m dealing with it and hear them talking about that.” And it was just the continuity of that common language that we talk often about of people sharing how it’s affecting them personally, and so, I want you to think about that. Perry and I were talking a little bit before we started today about, you know, people individually is coaching about—they’re saying, “Hey, I’m different when I’m at home than I am at work.” That’s not the goal here, right? So, in order for you as a leader, get comfortable with understanding where they’re at, personally, and that may be some things that you’re like, “Whoa, I didn’t know that.” But that’s good progress. So yeah, be comfortable and be open to that. Listen, learn, and then you’ll be able to lead them effectively.
Perry: Absolutely! Third best practice that I’ve found is that, I didn’t get this early in my life, but expect resistance because of what’s going on. There’s external forces, you’re asking for internal changes. I know we all want to believe that everybody’s going to get on board with the change, be gung-ho with that, but they don’t. Not everybody’s at the same place. So, you know, John shared a statistic once and I always thought it was interesting that reluctance to join you kind of comes in code, and you have to be able to read that code. They don’t say they’re scared or they’re anxious or they’re uncertain. It shows up, but he said that you’ll notice in any time of change, any new product coming out, any new thing happening, that there’ll be some innovators, the 2% that are with you right away, and I thought, “2%, wow!” Then there’s the early adopters that come a little later, but they’re 13%. So, you’re up to 15%. Then there’s that early majority at 14%, you’re kind of getting over the curve now as people are starting to notice things are happening and then you have the later majority which is the big bulk here at 34%, and then the laggards who drag up the back at 16%. I found it interesting if this is a leader with all these external effects going on and you’re trying to run your business inside, how many people are really on board at the beginning, and you need to recognize there’s going to be resistance and you need to address it.
Chris: Yeah, this is a game changer. You need to understand that not everybody is going to be on board with you. And we sometimes want to assume that, we want to hope for that, but that is not going to be the case. And so, as you guys have probably heard, you know, hope is not a strategy and knowing that and keeping that in mind, here’s what I want to encourage you: you need to over communicate and connect during these times of change. Because you got to understand that they’re not all going to be at the same place at the same time with you. And so, some of your communication, some of your “why”, some of your “how” is going to be repetitive to those that jump in early, but that has to be said over and over and over again, in order to get everybody on board with you.
Perry: Good! Fourth best practices to remember, I think that is going to be tempting with all the external things going on and your own internal actions is that, is my vision wrong? The best practice here is to realize that vision generally does not change. Your plans may change, but vision doesn’t. And I think it’s important to realize that and communicate to your team or organization, that just because there’s a lot going on, there’s a lot of external factors, there’s uncertainty, there’s unknown, our vision has not changed. How we get there may have changed, but we’re still going in the same place.
Chris: Yeah. This reminds me of a great quote from Andy Stanley, where he says, “Plans and strategies can always be changed and improved, but vision doesn’t change.” Right? Visions are simply refined with time, and what this makes me think about is, I also want to encourage you that your values shouldn’t change. No matter the change that’s coming from the external forces, it should never change the values of you as an individual, but also as an organization. It makes me think about here at the John Maxwell Enterprise, you know, our top value is people. We value people, and I can remember is going into this pandemic, the first thing John said was, “Everything can go out the window, but we’re going to keep adding value to people. And what does this look like? Get on calls, check on people, get personal with them, add value to them.” We’re not necessarily charging for coaching calls or virtual training or John jumped on and started doing Monday sessions. Our value did not change through that. And so, just know that your vision and your values, man, they need to—other things may change, but those don’t need to change.
Perry: Right. And number five, you know, when you’re operating in times of great change, I find it very helpful the best practice to, I just called it communicate, celebrate, communicate, which is, I really want to stay close to my people, I want to stay on message, I want to celebrate those small wins, I want to communicate consistently the vision and the plan, the vision and the plan, and then repeat all that as necessary. I think that’s one thing that John’s taught me is you think they got it when you said it…they didn’t. Keep saying it, keep reminding people. And he does such a good job of that, every time he speaks, he’s bringing you back to what it is we’re about, what are we doing? So, communicate, celebrate, communicate.Chris: Yeah, I don’t think you can ever over communicate. We mentioned this through change. Yeah, I don’t think you can over communicate, period. And then with change, you can just kind of double down on that, and I think that’s one of the ways that you do create momentum. There are going to be a lot of uncertainties. There should be uncertainties in your leadership and change, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have great clarity, and I think that even in uncertain times through change, as long as you are communicating with clarity, and that you are being clear that that will help continue to create momentum for your team. Greg Cagle, one of our facilitators and coaches, used to say all the time that we needed, clarity, accountability, and alignment. And as you think about that, that’s a great three step process as we go through change, but don’t ever underestimate over communicating to your team.
Perry: You know, this is one thing that is big for me was just, again, being personal and knowing where everybody is individually helped me lay out my communication strategy. So, I know that I was kind of pinpoint communicating instead of like carpet bombing. I want to be specific to people’s needs and requirements, because it affects everybody so differently, but you’re still trying to lead my business, trying to move it forward. I need everybody on board to do that.
Chris: Yeah. Well, as we wrap up today, let me give you just a couple of closing thoughts and some of the things that I’m thinking about as we work through this. The first thing is, you’ve heard Perry and I talk a lot about common language drives, beliefs, and behaviors. I really want you to think about that and unpack that in regard to the change that you might be going through. Common language will create continuity within your team, even when external forces are, maybe, the external forces feel in control of your team. As long as you’re having that common language, you’re being clear, then that continuity will still be there with your team as you’re working through that. And then the last thing is, we just talked about it with Andy’s quote and then us talking about values. Your plans may change, your budgets may change, right? We got together as a leadership team in April, Mark Cole, our CEO said, “Throw your budgets out! Throw out year over year comparisons.” What? We got to start over again and all of that just changed for us. Processes change, opinions change, but what cannot change is what you value as an individual and as an organization and the vision that you guys have. If you keep that at the forefront, no matter if it’s internal or external forces driving the change, you’ll get through it.
Perry: Very good. Great reminders. Thank you, Chris. Just a reminder, there is a Learner Guide for this lesson at Johnmaxwellcompany.com/podcasts. We’d love it if you leave us a comment or a question there. You can also learn more about the Five Levels of Leadership. We’re grateful that you would join us, hope you’ll do so again soon. That’s all for today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast!
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