Like a snap of our fingers, the global health crisis caused ripples of change in businesses and organizations across the globe. One minute we were at our desks. Then next we were figuring out how to juggle work from our kitchen tables, along with kids, cats, food, and, of course, the fear that goes along with the unknown. At the top of mind for many people was, “Do we have enough toilet paper?” It seems kind of silly now, doesn’t it?
Yet, during unexpected change, it’s a very natural reaction to ask questions, that in retrospect, may not seem that important now.
For the most part, these changes were unexpected, and many business leaders were caught off-guard. Yet, what has been inspiring to me is that many organizations and businesses shifted quickly and created a new way to serve their customers and communities. Many of them have done that by co-creating with their teams.
As we re-emerge slowly from the pandemic, here are some suggestions to help you in that process. In my last blog post, I started a series on The Magic of Change to share wisdom on how leaders may develop the skills and beliefs they need to lead through change. However, leading and managing change is the responsibility of every team member, not just managers and the Executive. In Part 2 of the series, you will read about the art of co-creation and learn some tips to bring your team on board so that they develop and implement successful change-related solutions.
4 Steps to Co-Create with Your Team
One of the most important things to remember when co-creating with your team is that leaders lead alongside their teams when going through large-scale change. All leaders in the organization, including managers, CEOs, and other top leaders are going through the change at the same time as their teams.
Use these to enlist your team in the magic of co-creation:
1. Build Trust by Using Clear Language
When we are clear on the language we are using, and hold the team accountable to it, we build trust. Determine what is the appropriate language your team needs to hear and use it to engage in the change.
Remember, when we are under pressure, we frequently use language that isn’t accurate and can sometimes be exaggerated. (I know I can sometimes!)
If you receive a report that has a few errors in it, do you say it’s a “disaster” or do you say, “it has a few errors in it.”? Rationally, you know it has a few errors. But if you are under pressure to deliver it to your executive team, a project team, or for those of you in the public sector, to the city council, this language may slip in!
When people have issues, as mentioned in the last article, don’t try to solve it for them or minimize it.
If you use the term, “first-world problems” when someone else is having an issue that is serious to them, it minimizes their experience. It’s not always appropriate to set the context or help people get perspective when they are in the middle of something stressful. Instead, find out what you can do to help.
One of my friends who is dealing with stage 4 cancer said to me, “I get really tired of people telling me I’ll be fine. We don’t know that. The greatest gift anyone can give me right now is just to be in the uncertainty with me and not try to make it better.”
I think of this story as a reminder that when we lead alongside our teams (as we are all apprentices to change), we are in the change with them, AND we can be in the uncertainty with them. It may be the greatest gift you give your team.
2. Focus on Purpose and Priorities
The following three questions can be used to instill purpose and focus on your team. Ask these questions weekly to build momentum and create focus. They do work!
- What two accomplishments are you most proud of this week? (You can use any number, I’ll often use one accomplishment!)
To instill purpose:
- WHY were they important to you? (The ‘Why is the most important part to ask. You can’t say, “because my boss said so,” or “I was on a deadline.” You must identify a reason other than that.)
To build focus:
- What will you do to continue the momentum next week?
3. Prepare Your Team to Be Unprepared
As mentioned in the first article in this series, we are each an apprentice to change, not its master, which means we must stay open, learn, and adapt as we go. This is as relevant to individual employees as it is to company leaders. For many reasons, employees will differ in their ability to successfully navigate through change. It is important to identify key team members who will help facilitate change for the entire group or sub-units. It is also great to recognize your ‘change all-stars’ who have stepped up to the plate and delivered stellar results.
Going through this pandemic has forced all of us to develop a comfort with ambiguity and uncertainty. Helping people narrow their focus to what they have control over in the short term will help people feel comfortable with ambiguity in the longer term. Additionally, help them identify the qualities and skills they’ve used over the last few months to deal with ambiguity. Clearly identifying these will help your team prepare to be unprepared. More on that next month, when we talk about reemergence, the lessons learned from this pandemic, and how we can apply those lessons moving forward.
Meanwhile, you should monitor potential change fatigue, which is “a general sense of apathy or passive resignation toward organizational changes by individuals or teams.” Many things may cause change fatigue, so speak with the individuals in question to get feedback and make adjustments.
4. Enlist Your Team to Break Through Self-Imposed Limitations
Sometimes you or your team may not even know what their limitations are.
One of the quickest ways to identify unspoken limitations is to listen for the word ‘because.’ When someone says “We can’t do this BECAUSE…” Everything after the word ‘because’ is a limitation.
Gather evidence or proof of other situations/people/organizations that have done something similar.
When you are able to show evidence and proof of someone else accomplishing the ‘this’ you identified above, you remove doubt.
When you remove doubt, you give your team the courage needed for successful co-creation.
Leaders cannot make change happen on their own—especially during the large-scale change that we are all going through! The process of co-creating with your team is where you will find success. The bonus is, co-creation also helps with job satisfaction, team unity, diversity, and productivity. By learning to lead at the edge of change (Part 1) and co-create with your team (Part 2, here), you can successfully navigate the pandemic and future organizational changes. Leading alongside our teams, allows all of us to re-emerge together and face what the future holds.