Leading Through Unprecedented Change

By Holly LaBoda, Partner and Co-Founder, Luminaries Consulting

Leading through this time of unprecedented change

How are you doing? No, really, how are you doing? As individuals, many of us are finding ourselves smack in the middle of the biggest and most sweeping personal and professional change we’ve experienced. As leaders, we have the privilege of helping others work through this change as well.  Here are three things that will help you, as a leader, more effectively lead your team right now.

Understand that change is individual

We are all being impacted in some way by the efforts to quell the spread of COVID-19. But two things are different for each one of us: 

  1. How you are impacted
  2. How you respond to that change

Some of us my be busier than ever, some have seen their business stop overnight, some are working remotely for the first time, some have their kids at home with them while trying to be productive, some are unable to visit their loved ones. That’s the practical, visible component. Pair that with the emotional side, that we all also respond to change differently. Some of us revel in change, “bring it on, we’ve got this”, some struggle through constant fear and doubt, and every reaction in between. This individual responses to change are harder to see, and all are completely normal.

As leaders, we should listen to our teams; ask them how they are and really listen. But also, don’t be afraid to share how you’re being impacted and how you’re coping. That’s how we connect on a human level.

Determine what you can influence and control

When we can travel again, the airlines will remind us before each flight to “secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others”. Those same rules apply for leading change; we need to understand it ourselves before we can lead others through it. For a change like this, it might feel like everything is happening “to” us, but there are always things that we can influence and some that are fully within our control.  

Your personal assignment (and one that may be helpful to do with your teams):

  1. List all the elements of the change, and potential issues that may arise.
  2. Categorize that list into three groups. 
    1. Within my control - Act 
    2. May be able to influence - Affect 
    3. Neither control nor affect - Accept
  3. Review your lists:
    1. What else is in your Act & Affect zones?  
    2. What can you do to minimize the potential impact of the things that are in the accept zone? 

You might realize through this exercise that you can influence or control more than you realize. Keep this list dynamic and front of mind. Situations like this evolve rapidly, so your list should too. Focus your energy on what you can influence and control and determine how you might be able to minimize the potential downsides of what is beyond your influence.

Enact some simple strategies with your own team

What should be in everyone’s “act” zone, are your own behaviors and actions. The simplest things can make a difference in helping your team navigate this current environment. Here are a few terribly practical tactics that you can use today.

1. Key Messages: Prepare some key messages that you want to weave into your communications. Key messages are concise, declarative statements (not topics!) and work best when they are overt and repeated often. For example, right now some of the sentiments you want to communicate to your team might be, “we can and must continue to serve our customers” or “take care of yourselves and each other”. You may want to share them with other leaders in your company for consistency, or better yet, determine them together.

2. Thematic Goal / Rallying Cry: In Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, Patrick Lencioni introduces the concept of a thematic goal, a tool that can align organizations and create the intentional shared focus that happens in a crisis. Guess what? You don’t have to manufacture a crisis this time, but a thematic goal or rally cry can serve as a point of focus and inspiration for your team. What is uniquely important for your team to focus on right now?

3. Virtual Coffee Hour: If your team is used to being co-located, interacting completely virtually can feel a bit like being stuck on an island. Many miss the social elements of seeing people in the office. Bring back a bit of that by setting up an hour each week where your team can jump on a call or video conference and catch up. You can keep them completely unstructured, letting people catch up (ask people how they are doing and show genuine interest!), or you can add a bit more structure and wrap up the meeting with everyone sharing a recent accomplishment and upcoming priority, or what they are doing to work towards your thematic goal.

4. Help each other through: Found an interesting article that spoke to you recently? Tried a new tactic that’s helped you stay sane and productive? Share it with your team and encourage them to do the same.  

Now let’s practice what we preach and help each other through this challenge of leading through change. What has helped you lately?  What have you done with your teams that has made a difference? Where do you need help from others?

Holly LaBoda is Partner and Co-Founder of Luminaries Consulting. She loves helping organizations, teams and individuals realize their potential; both understanding what they are capable of and making it a reality. She has spent the better part of her 15+ year career in the logistics industry, where she enables people, teams and organizations achieve their goals in the smartest and fastest way possible. Clients appreciate her pragmatic approach which allows her to quickly immerse herself in their business. She blends that with a diverse background in talent, strategy facilitation and change management and can create custom solutions that help them achieve their goals and get results quickly while they focus on running their business. She loves that every client, and every day, is different because it means she is always learning.

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