In today’s work environments – as in life – change is a given. Organizations restructure, coworkers come and go, and responsibilities grow.
Change keeps organizations and individuals from stagnating, but navigating transitions is rarely easy or comfortable. Our individual personalities and preferences impact how well we adapt to change. Some of us embrace it as an opportunity for growth, while others view it as a risk to be managed.
Leaders are no different. But despite their natural inclinations, they are responsible for setting the tone for their team. They can choose to dig in their heels and resist transition – or be positive change agents.
When leaders work to manage transitions effectively, they help their teams remain agile and enable their organizations to respond successfully to market shifts.
There are several leadership skills that help managers model adaptive behavior down the reporting chain.
When leaders lean only on their own understanding and experience to solve problems and set strategy, they can overlook innovative solutions and stymie creativity.
Smart leaders stay curious. They ask questions, listen to different viewpoints, and invite ideas from others.
For some, asking for input may not come naturally. Scheduling regular team meetings, encouraging brainstorming sessions, and establishing an open-door policy where team members feel free to bring suggestions to leaders can all help the flow of information and ideas.
Being curious and collaborative not only models adaptability and acceptance, but also helps cultivate psychologically safe environments where team members feel comfortable being vulnerable and acknowledging their concerns about change.
Good leaders are often strategic thinkers who plan well for the routine, day to day assignments. They understand what is expected and they meet every expectation.
Great leaders are also flexible. They anticipate and plan for the unexpected – extreme market volatility, budget cuts, or organizational realignments – so they can remain nimble and respond accordingly.
In some cases, that may mean operating with a leaner staff. At other times, it may mean voluntarily postponing a project because the money isn’t there or changing strategy altogether due to market conditions.
By being agile, they are able to pivot when circumstances call for a redirection or a change in plans. And they invite input from the thinkers and planners around them to help them consider contingencies and mitigate risks in the event of a sudden shift.
For leaders, the ability to think on their feet and make quick decisions is certainly a strength. Sometimes though – especially when the stakes are high – the ability to slow down, think through the various options, and consider the potential impact of their decision is equally important.
Change often requires leaders to make difficult decisions. A budget cut may mean having to select one project over another. Organizational shake ups can lead to having to reassign or realign resources – be it people or capital. Those calls cannot be made in haste.
Thoughtful, deliberate decision-making is what separates leaders who simply react from leaders who can genuinely adapt to change in a way that benefits their teams and their organizations over the long term.
When in the midst of transition, organizations look to their leaders to help employees adapt to change and align with the new strategy. By remaining curious, flexible, and deliberate, team leaders can be more adaptable themselves and help their teams and organizations evolve rather than stagnate.
The Birkman Signature Report can lend insight into tendencies leaders have towards adaptability and managing their teams through transition.