Leadership Through Transitions
Anxiety runs high during periods of whitewater –people get anxious and leaders want to reassure. When leaders work to steady the waters it is important to remember that a number of reassuring strategies can have negative middle and long term outcomes. Consider the following strategies.
Communicate carefully about what you predict will be true in 6, 12 or 24 months as those statements will more likely prove untrue than statements about direction. Moments of ‘but you said we’d never have to switch to that system‘ lead to greater anxiety and to damage your working relationship with your reports as can well intentioned statements like ‘don’t worry, we’ll always have a department of….‘ or ‘of course, you’ll have your job‘.
I’ve written about direction truth in my book Your Job Survival Guide and have a video highlighting the importance of it as well.
Change is Personal
Remember, change is personal. It’s about individuals, their families, and their friends.
One way to counteract increased anxiety is to provide more, shorter term goals. If usually you review someone’s performance every 6 months, then make it every 3 months, every 3 months, then make it every month, and every month, then make it every week. People benefit from knowing what is expected of them and how they are doing anyway and especially so when change abounds and they feel vulnerable. The specificity allows them to channel their anxiety and do what they can to secure their value to their boss and to their organization and, thereby, employment.
At times of high anxiety, spend more time inside your unit with your direct reports. As the saying goes, ‘when the shooting starts is no time to be in HQ‘. People benefit from feeling that formal authority is present and that they, through that authority, are connected to the organization, i.e., not abandoned. Find more time to MBWA (Manage by Walking Around).