In the infamous HBO’s Game of Thrones, queen Daenerys “Khaleesi” used to skim through kingdoms with her three invincible dragons. Now as viewers anxiously anticipate the final season, she is going to face a paramount change in the war landscape; the white walkers not only brought down one of her dragons, they turned it into a zombie-like weapon of their own. Not to mention Queen Cersei, her traditional rival for the throne, who had her army develop a giant ballista that showed promising air-defense strength against the hovering beasts.
Are you usually taken away by epic stories? How astonishing is it to realize that this kind of dramatic evolution of events does not only happen in fiction! Here is another similar yet real-life scene; on a rather seemingly ordinary business day, you rush into the boardroom for an early morning meeting called upon by your brand team. They break the awkward silence with an unpleasant opening, everyone already knows what's going on but just hates to admit it, you were all doubtful at the beginning, but for the last few days the sales of your leading product has been suffering a scary free fall. It is always this or that unexpected root cause, sometimes it’s not even competition but rather a market transition, a new regulatory legislation that made you introduce some alterations on the pack, an antitrust mandate that made you let go of a key distributor, or just a sudden shift in consumers’ needs.
Business consultants occasionally preach about “leading change”; how a leader could introduce a game-changing event, take the market by surprise, recognize and utilize new consumer trends, or lead change internally by revolutionizing processes or fighting complacency at the workplace. However, not all changes are planned, as Heraclitus said “Panta Rhei”, meaning “All things change”; change is sometimes superimposed by the marketplace, governments, social bloggers, or even by your own headquarters. Change leaders are not those just capable of turning the place upside down for new ideas, they are also supposed to anticipate change, help their teams get ready, and be able to adapt to shocking overnight breaking news with steady hands and sharp minds. So here are few thoughts for leaders to exhibit adaptability to change:
Expect the unexpected
“If anything can go wrong, it will”, a simple statement of Murphy’s law. As grave as it may sound it is frequently undermined. Very few leaders bring their teams in a room and ask “Ok, we know the usual risks, but what “else” could go wrong?” It never hurts when everything is going well to pause once in a while and ask your team good questions, simulate in your mind and more importantly simulate with your team on what new issues might arise, you could very possibly be surprised by how a new member in your team picks.
an alarming thread just because he/she is not yet overwhelmed with the overall feeling-good of existing performance. Most of crisis management techniques will still apply, like defining who deals with what first, rules of engagement...etc. yet the content and scale of preparedness may significantly vary if you only stick to traditional problems or rather equip yourself against every possible scenario.
Deal with the shock then move on
Imagine yourself in the middle of a town-hall with your employees discussing recent changes; watch out for your reactions, even the slightest limerick you casually drop in an informal break or a frown you carry on your face during your talk. You are expected to be a role model, your team members will closely monitor how you deal with the news, and whether you really mean what you preach, or just operate your auto-pilot on “change leadership protocol” while deep-inside you are as doubtful as they might be.
Then as you deal with the news, you will need to separate feelings from facts. Feelings should be expressed, it’s healthier this way. Don’t try to sugarcoat bad news, sometimes bitter taste can help peop