Things great leaders say in times of tumultuous change

14:36 | 16/06/2014
Here’s what a good leader should say to effectively connect with people during turbulent times.

Photo: Hung Nguyen

- A person’s name

We all share a basic need to connect with other people. And nothing appeals to our social senses like the sound of our own first name. A leader who uses a first name also knows the person behind the name—there’s an implication of familiarity, trust, and respect. The difference may seem subtle, but “Nice job” and “Nice job, Mark” just aren’t the same thing.

- Nothing at all

Leading others through change doesn’t mean you have to do all the talking. Some in your organization thrive on change and will relish the opportunity to express themselves; listen carefully to their ideas and alternatives. Others will have ideas but won’t express themselves openly. Give them space to write about it.

- Why

No matter their behavioral preferences, your people will absolutely need to know the reason for change. People appreciate knowing the rationale behind a project so they can make their own judgments and asses the value of their roles.

- Exactly what you mean

And you need to mean what you say. The importance of integrity, clarity, and following through is critical during times of change. Mincing words, sugarcoating reality, or making unrealistic promises leaves room for misinterpretation at best, disaster at worst. Clearly define goals and expectations. If you say you’re going to do something, make sure it gets done.

- I need help

Empathetic leadership opens the door to showing vulnerability as a leader, which can be an effective tool. You can admit you don’t know it all. Employees will see this as a sign that you are not only approachable but also confident in their ability to contribute. So whether you need help structuring a process or weighing costs and benefits, or just need more ideas, don’t be afraid to ask.

- How

Once the need for change has been identified and ideas for moving forward have materialised into objectives, it’s the leader’s job to set forth a clear vision for how to get the job done. This is the road map—the rules, the processes, the definition, and the deadlines. The more structured thinkers in your ranks will appreciate it.

- It’s going to be OK

Leading an organisation in times of relative calm is one thing; in times of change, everyone is watching you more closely, giving more importance to what you say and do. Be a calming voice and exude poise, and your team will see that you are confident in the changes taking place.

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