Leading MY team through change

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Change is constant. It’s so constant that you’d think we’d all be used to it by now. But we’re not. Whether your company is struggling to find and retain talent, your team is tackling a new strategic direction, or yet another departmental restructure is taking place, we all face change as part of our day-to-day. But so few of us know how to handle it.

Leading through change gracefully can seem impossible at times. I know myself how daunting the whole process can be. You don’t know where the next twist or turn will take you. And worse, your team often feel even more anxious than you do, because there’s this horrible assumption floating around that they know less about the future than you do. The important thing when change is on the horizon is to not let it overwhelm you, and as a leader, not let yourself overwhelm your people. (Easy to say… but work with me on this one!)

Change isn’t bad. Yet the embracement of it often is!

It’s a fact, everyone reacts to change differently. The more diverse your people, the more diverse the reactions – but there is no right or wrong here – you have to be prepared for the ups and more importantly, the downs because this journey is what enables you and your team to grow and shapes the success of your change transition.  

Following on from the recent launch of our values at Geon Training Solutions [tag], I have been making it my mission to operationalise them, instilling them into our daily and weekly behaviours to the point at which I hope they will soon become ‘the norm’, with no visual cues or prompts.

So, what have we been doing?

Mondays have long been seen as the much needed ‘refresh’ button that every business hits to start the week right. Putting the problems of Friday firmly in the past and welcoming a clean slate. Ready for action plans to be set and the endless to-dos to be made to help see us through until the following Friday falls. Some call it a Production Meeting, the Morning Brief, and the Daily Huddle, but for me and my team, it’s our “Kudos Kick off”.

Over recent few weeks, we’ve been kicking off our Mondays by delivering well-deserved kudos throughout the team, to cultivate a more compassionate team and truly live within our value of Growth:

At Geon we welcome constructive feedback to reflect, develop and build authentic relationships with our learners, clients and partners alike.
By not being afraid to lean into the ever-changing challenges that life presents us with, and by stretching our minds to be open to new ideas and opportunities, we not only create better versions of ourselves, but of others around us. 
No matter what cards we are dealt, we recognise the gift born from growth. We use this gift every single day to inspire both our learners and our partners in how they conduct themselves as well as their business. From the highs of successfully gaining new skills and securing work to the lows of skills gaps and staffing problems, riding the waves of recruitment and training is all about growth. It’s about choosing courage over comfort to allow you to anchor your focus and move you away from unwanted and emotionally charged reactions. The ability to nurture and grow in this way has been a huge foundation for our success. It’s enabled us to ‘BUILD UP’ and scale up a strong network of like-minded people. From employees to learners, partners and wider stakeholders. We are surrounded by people who share our vision for a brighter future. All of whom truly believe that to achieve that, it must start from within.

No good deed goes unnoticed

To help set the tone and create a relaxed and open atmosphere, I begin by asking everyone to go around the room and give gratitude for a team member that they felt did a job well in the previous week. This could be as big or as small as my team feel relevant – I like to leave it completely open to personal interpretation, and by doing this, the outcomes are always so interesting to explore! 

Next, we move on to identifying and recognising a team member of our choice who we felt demonstrated one of our core values. This exercise not only expands on the gratitude of the first task – it also acts as a reminder to what our core values are, testing out the knowledge (and memories!) of my team.

The most constructive part of Kudos Kick off however, comes in our third and final exercise. Asking my team to comment on a situation that strayed away from our values in the past week. It’s important to note that this isn’t to call out members of the team, but only to take learnings and use it to fuel our growth for the future.

Overall, we keep these sessions short and sweet, because like any business, come Monday morning our inboxes are bursting and we have so many learners to support. But by taking a few minutes to recognise our team’s effort, we all leave the room with a sense of belonging, and a shared understanding for how invaluable our collective efforts are, and that we couldn’t have made it this far without each other. By changing just 15 minutes in our 40+ hour weeks, I’ve been able to cultivate a far more productive workforce and unsurprisingly the straying of our values lessen every time. This proves to me how embedded our values are becoming, and how measurable the process can be when I look at our performance.

Keep changing what you changed!

Although Kudos Kick offs are a relatively new concept for my team, it’s important to keep changing ‘what you changed’ to ensure that it doesn’t become stagnant or ‘old hat’. Progression as a business (as well as in life) is all about moving, constantly evolving and developing.

This week I decided to switch things up by inviting my team to extend out beyond our business values and this time, to share their own personal values with the rest of the team. As part of our values deep dive last year, I asked my team, using the principles of Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead, to take a list of over100 values and to filter this down to just two values that they held close.

Why just two? Well despite most people having a tendency to identify with 10, maybe even 20 values, if too many values are on the table, then nothing is ever truly a driver. You can read more about the process we followed here. Taking these 2 values, each team member had to provide examples in accordance to Bréne’s framework.

Here I share one of my team’s examples to demonstrate what you should be looking for within your team’s responses:

Value 1: Creativity

  1. What are one or two behaviours that support your value? Finding time to get into a creative workflow, understanding when I will create my best work and putting big projects into those time slots.
  2. What are one or two slippery behaviours that are outside your value? When I rush and don’t plan.
  3. What’s an example of a time when you were fully living into this value? When I create a new project or task.

Value 2: Freedom

  1. What are one or two behaviours that support your value? Setting up my schedule so that I don’t fully commit myself to one thing. This allows me to support my friends and family when I want.
  2. What are one or two slippery behaviours that are outside your value? Overcommit myself and not setting clear boundaries.
  3. What’s an example of a time when you were fully living into this value? Creating my own businesses to be my own boss and working on it each week.

In regards to both values:

1. Who is someone who knows your values and supports your efforts to live into them? My business partner.

2. What does support from this person look like? Holding space for me to talk openly and when I’m feeling down.

3. What can you do as an act of self-compassion to support yourself in the hard work of living into your values? Going out for a run or working out at the gym. 

4. What are the early warning indicators or signs that you’re living outside your values? I have negative self-talk. And I get annoyed, agitated, or short tempered with my loved ones. 

5. What does it feel like when you’re living into your values? It feels like I’m floating.

6. How can you check yourself? Being able to recognise my negative self-talk and flip the script. Write a gratitude list and tell myself positive things.

So, what does all of this teach us?

Well, it teaches us many things. But most importantly these exercises teach us that change can, and in my opinion, SHOULD start off small. Change doesn’t have to be a whirlwind overnight – if anything that’s where change can be catastrophic and where so many businesses fail. The best way to lead your team through change is by taking small steps that begin to impact your day, your week, your month, your year and so on.

In the end, change is all about growth. It’s not the final destination that we must focus on, but the journey it takes to get us there. Because that’s where the real magic happens. Change should be something to enjoy (even if you are a little scared). By creating a transparent and open environment with your team, and taking time to celebrate ‘the little things’, you really can overcome anything.

When done right, leading through change can highlight so many leadership-best-practices. And it’s through this kind of change where I’ve taken some of my greatest life lessons.

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