lead through change - Gregg Brown

The Magic of Change Part 1: How to Lead At the Edge of Change

If the global crisis has taught us one thing, it is that while we may think we are ‘in control’ of our work and personal lives, the world is unpredictable, and we must learn to roll with the punches. Change is the master, and we are its apprentices. So why does it seem like certain people respond and go through change better than others? Because they have developed the skills and beliefs, they need to lead through the change. 

These skills and beliefs are things everyone can learn and practice. If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming an even better change leader, I encourage you to get started today. And just as a little reminder: Everyone can be a leader, regardless of your job title. Having the job title doesn’t make you a leader. I’ve worked with CEO’s that aren’t great leaders, and administrative professionals that are!

Let’s dive into what it takes to lead at the edge of change.

What Does it Mean to Be an Apprentice to Change? 

When it comes to change, the first thing to understand is that no matter how accomplished we are, or how much we have learned, or how long we have been in a leadership role, we are not masters of change.

Change requires us to expand the vision of who we are and what our teams and organizations can do. To lead through change, we ask the question, If I’m willing to let go of the reality that is predictable, what is possible in the unknown? 

When we break through these limitations, we create possibilities; not only for ourselves but for our organizations and the planet. 

Change has many lessons to teach, and when we try to ignore them, we miss out on the chance to grow and become better leaders. When we embrace change as an opportunity to see things differently and reach different outcomes, we build different qualities, skills, and practices. Your willingness to be an apprentice to change will greatly strengthen your capacity to lead through change. 

In fact, when you take ownership and fully step into the apprentice role, you will understand how truly magical change can be. Imagine transforming your entire company, department or role. Revolutionizing the way you solve problems and work together as a team. Knowing that the next time life throws you a curveball, you have confidence in your ability to knock it out of the park. Sure, predictability feels safe, but it also creates limitations. Change opens the door to possibility. Let’s step in!

5 Tips to Develop Your Apprentice Capability to Lead at the Edge of Change! 

In times of change, like we are experiencing during the current pandemic, the entire organization and all team members play crucial roles. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where we will discuss the art of co-creating change with your team.

No matter how we wish other people or situations may change, all change starts internally, so always begin with yourself. These tips will help you develop your own change muscles first before you apply them to your team.

Tip #1: Start with the Right Mindset (The MOST IMPORTANT #1 THING EVER TO DO!!)

Our mindset is not a ‘new age’ concept. The concept of “mindset” is grounded in science. It’s a collection of neurons in the prefrontal cortex of your brain that are designed to improve how you deal with issues and problem solve. If we program our mindset correctly, it will respond efficiently. 

Here’s a simple example. When you get up in the morning, and it’s raining, do you say, “It’s a lousy day,” or do you say, “It’s a wet day”?   

Saying it’s a wet day, isn’t putting a positive spin on what you may perceive as a bad situation. It is removing the emotion from your description. 

If you say “it’s a lousy day’, your brain will be programmed towards a negative reality. 

Conversely, if you get up and say, “it’s a wet day,” your brain is programmed more efficiently and positively. It doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen during the day. However, it does mean you’ll be in a better mindset to handle them. 

This is an essential difference because when you set your mindset and beliefs about a topic in advance, your behaviors and even reality will often follow. This phenomenon is known as the self-fulfilling prophecy: “a belief or expectation that an individual holds about a future event that manifests because the individual holds it.” Unconsciously, you may work to affirm your belief—which is why it is vital to start with a positive mindset.

Negative thought patterns are normal and even natural during a crisis like the one we’re currently living through. It’s also normal if point #2 below makes you feel a little uncomfortable. Recognize when negativity is creeping in, so you can address those thoughts and move on from them. Let your confidence come not from knowing exactly what will happen next, but rather from believing in your ability to handle it no matter what. 

As the old adage goes, how you start your day is how you live your day!

Tip #2: Accept that You Won’t Have All the Answers

Thinking that you must know what the future holds to lead a change initiative successfully, project, department, business, or organization is one of the top change management myths I discussed in this article. No one can predict the future; you can navigate change, but you cannot control it. 

You would not be in your role if you didn’t want to help people! You also want to remove roadblocks, give advice, problem solve, and generally make people’s lives better. 

One thing I’ve had to learn, and my guess is you may too; you need to be at peace with the fact that you can’t remove everyone’s problems or make their lives less busy, complex, smoother, etc. etc.! 

What you can do most of the time is to listen to their issues and acknowledge them. Acknowledging issues will move people down the path of change often as much as problem-solving.

I used to have three questions on my wall to guide discussions when people came into my office.

  1. Do you want me to solve it?
  2. Do you want me to help you solve it? 
  3. Do you want me just to listen?

What do you think I wanted to do? Solve it!

What do you think my team members wanted me to do most of the time? Listen!

Tip #3: Make Decisions Even Without all the Information

It’s easy to become paralyzed by uncertainty. As an apprentice to change, you may not always have the expertise or knowledge to deal with a particular situation, yet you need to make decisions, step up and take action frequently. 

This can be difficult, as you may be waiting for all the information to make the best decision possible.  Use your professional judgment. Gather the best data available to you and move forward.  

Have you ever said, “I wish someone would make a decision?” Well, that just might be you!

Tip #4: Build New ‘Human’ Resource Capabilities

The qualities that make a good apprentice are solid ‘human’ resources to have in any workplace. 

Human resource qualities, including compassion and empathy, are key to successfully leading change, as change impacts everyone in the organization. Getting into the mind of the other person, helps you understand the role change will have on each individual. Apprentices are also naturally curious and want to explore the world around them. Their strength comes not from knowing exactly what to do, but being willing to gather diverse opinions from those around them to find the best solution. 

Each change situation requires our presence, our wisdom, and discernment to create the magic of change we know is possible.

Tip #5: Lead Alongside Your Team 

Sometimes leaders are in the front of the team, pulling them to the vision; other times, they are the quiet guide at the back. 

During change, you lead alongside your team. You are experiencing the change at the same time. You are an apprentice to change, and they are as well; just in different roles.

Leading alongside your team, puts you in the mindset that we are all in this together (and didn’t this pandemic just do that!)  It removes the pressure to have all the answers, as I mentioned in #2 above. 

lead through change - lead alongside your team

When you lead alongside your team, it allows you to show your humanness about the situation, which in turn builds trust. 

We are all apprentices to change. We know that no situation requires the same approach. When you embrace this fact, you can develop the presence, wisdom, and discernment you need to lead through change when the unexpected happens…and to proactively create positive changes when you see the opportunities in front of you. 

Pick one of the tips above and start practicing it! It’s the magic of daily changes that will make the most significant difference to the quality of your life. 

The bonus is, it will make you an even better leader in the long run. It will also prepare you for Part 2 of this series, where I will share ideas on getting your colleagues and teams engaged in change.

See you soon!