Working 15 years as a change management consultant in Fortune 500 companies, I learned how leaders handle the stress that often accompanies changes like a reorganization, downsizing (or whatever sizing is the buzz word of the day!), mergers or acquisition, and even having a new boss. What can you do during these difficult times to show your strengths and never deviate from your strong brand? Here are a few tips – not only from me, but from those I worked with during those years.
• Push the patience lever to full throttle. It’s easy to lose it! And it takes a strong leader to wait until your own stress has subsided a bit before you say or do something you’ll regret.
• Be willing to say “I don’t know.” Don’t ever fake it ’til you make it. Here’s what an admired CEO chose to do when his company was being acquired. People were constantly asking him what was happening, when would they know if their job was in jeopardy, and who would be in charge – the current or future leaders? So he decided to hold regular “all hands” meetings. Some were in person, others via video conferencing. In these meetings he shared what he could, explained there were some things he simply could not discuss at the moment, answered questions and often found himself saying, “I don’t know….and when I DO, you will know too.” Result? He used the first principle in change management, which is to communicate, communicate, communicate. Even if it is saying “I don’t know.” Because of his leadership behaviors and consistent messaging, the trust level remained high, honest communication was appreciated, and when the acquisition finally happened, people were ready to get on board. He demonstrated some of his authentic brand attributes that included “trustworthy, engaging, ethical and communicator.” These showed up in his behavior big time.
• Help others show their strengths and strong brand. Now is when it’s uber-crucial to express clear expectations and get everyone involved. Consider having your team leaders hold their own discussion groups across departments and locations. Let them show their leadership competencies by talking about the complex issues that may lie ahead and how to address them as a department as well as individuals. Give them the opportunity to show their leadership brand strengths that will identify the business strategy that’s driving the change and demonstrate those behaviors that will encourage each person to be more engaged in the process. One thing most employees want from an organization is the feeling of being valued and an opportunity to use their strengths to get results.