NASA’s recently executed DART experiment was designed to try and shift the course of asteroids that might pose a collision risk to Earth. The idea is to use a small space vehicle flying at very high speed to move a large rock enough to take it off a potentially destructive course. (I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a rare example of government money well-spent!)
Leaders also need to be adept at getting their teams to change course. As the last several years have shown, the only true constant is change.
- Demand for products can change or even disappear. One CEO shared that an entire product initiative had to be scrapped because of a change in government policy.
- Sources of inventory can dry up or be dramatically delayed. I have heard many stories of delays of big shipments that were just waiting for one or two little parts to complete an order.
And not all change is adverse. Some changes are occurring that are creating enormous opportunity.
- New markets for services can be uncovered
- New technologies or business models can help equip a company to be even more productive
Changes (whether potentially positive or negative) require leaders help their teams adapt to new approaches quickly.
Do you feel the need to make some important changes in direction?
If you want your team to be able to pivot quickly with you, let me make a few suggestions:
Create meaningful transparency. Do this by proactively sharing meaningful measurements throughout the company on a regular basis. This might mean going beyond sales and delving into profitability. It might also mean going beyond lagging measures (measures of results) and providing more leading measures (like customer satisfaction and new client acquisition). The information is meaningful if it reaches the level of relevance that team members can use it to improve their own work and readily understand changes coming in the future.
Show your work. As my elementary math teacher told me, it is not enough to have the right answer, you need to be able to show how you arrived at the answer. Leaders may have had weeks or months to see the changes coming and to consider the appropriate response. Be sure to share these observations with the team and why they have made you come to the conclusions that you have.
Acknowledge the emotional impact. While making changes will be due to facts, people may still have an emotional reaction. They may be fearful that the anticipated changes will work. They may feel frustrated that they have spent time on a project that is no longer relevant. They might be irritated that new changes have to digested again just as they were getting used to previous changes. Leaders need to be cognizant of the potential reactions and ready to show the team that those are understood.
Leaders need to be adept at helping the team change course. It may not take a big collision, but it does take thoughtfulness and energy.