Managing Change: 4 eureka questions to ask

Asking questions is a great way to enhance your ability to think. Simply asking better questions can cause us to engage our imaginations or focus our minds. It enables us to generate more ideas, eliminate barriers and unearth hidden concerns. Question-asking is a great tool to use when going through change. It can help us discover insights, explore new possibilities and accelerate results. Try asking some of these questions to help your organisations through change.

1. How could we possibly involve others?

At times of change, many people can experience adverse reactions. Often they don’t feel engaged and may feel powerless due to a perceived, or real, lack of control. Try to take some time with other senior leaders to think of possible ways you could involve others. Getting your people engaged and giving them a feeling of involvement and control can often motivate them and counteract those negative reactions too.

2. How could we possibly help people adjust to change?

It’s important to recognise that change isn’t just about the roll-out of a new process or a different way of doing things. People have to make their own internal adjustments too. For some people it may mean understanding that some of the things in their comfort zone will be coming to an end and it’s time to ‘let go’. Leaders can help their people think about this phase of ‘transition’ as an opportunity for exploration, discovery and reinvention.

3. How consistent is our communication?

Sometimes communication at times of change can be sporadic and inconsistent – one person saying one thing and someone else saying something completely different. This lack of consistency can cause confusion. It isn’t just about having all the written messages aligned within the organisation. It’s also about senior leaders speaking with the one voice. Think about what could possibly be done to make your communication more consistent.

4. What can we do to help people move through the transition?

It’s all about the people factor! If people can’t make the transition in their own minds, it’s far more likely that it will take longer for change to happen, if at all. This question is really worth asking early on in the process. If people are left alone to adapt to change, they’re far more likely to experience a negative reaction. On the other hand, if an organisation looks after its people then adjusting to change could become a much quicker and easier process.

Three things you can do now

1. Use these questions and relate them to the change that you and your organisation are going through.

2. Create a bank of your own questions to dig a little deeper – you may unearth something critical to your success.

3. Don’t just stop at asking your senior leaders, sound out a wide group of people from across the organisation. The wider you cast your net, the more ideas you’ll have to choose from.

Managing Change: How to deal with the ‘givens’

We all know the one thing that’s always constant is change. Whether at work or even in your personal lives, change happens and most of the time we just need to deal with it. A ‘given’ is something that you can’t change or influence and is completely outside of your control. Ask yourself, is the change that is going on a given or not? There’s no point spending time working on things that you can’t change, when you can be spending that time on things that you can. Explore how you can move through change quicker by concentrating on things that will help your boat move faster.

1. Decide what the givens are

If a change is a given, does it mean that the whole of it is, or are there elements of the change that you can have control over? People often assume that everything to do with the change is a given, however more often than not, there can be certain elements of the change that you may be able to control or have influence over. It can be worth testing to see whether or not there’s anything you can do about it.

2. Deal with the givens

Once you’re aware of what it is that you can’t change, it’s a good idea to find a way to deal with it. Understand how you may feel about it and how you may want to go about dealing with it. Is it your thinking, your attitude or your approach that needs changing? You may feel that this change is something that you can’t tolerate and so you may choose to take some relevant actions. On the other hand you may choose to embrace it. You may want to think how comfortable you feel about the change.

3. Focus your energies

There’s no point focusing your energies on things that you can’t change or don’t have control over. Ask yourself, how much of your energy do you really want to spend moaning about something you can’t do anything about? It’s time to focus on what you can influence, what you can change. It would be more helpful to focus your thinking, behaviour and attitude on something that you have control over.

4. Help others with their thinking

Once you have dealt with the givens and feel comfortable with your thoughts around what you can’t change, it can be helpful to support others through the process. The longer it takes for people to adjust, the more it can impact on the productivity of work because, at the end of the day time = money. Once your whole team is aligned, it can make it easier to let go and move forward.

Three things to do now:

  1. Explore the change and identify what you do and don’t have control over
  2. Focus your energies on what you can influence and let go of what you can’t
  3. Help others with their thinking to create an aligned team.

“The only thing that is constant is change!” – Heraclitus

It seems far-fetched to imagine that something said by a Greek philosopher over 1500 years ago would still be so relevant in our world today and yet we only have to look back at fairly recent events in our time (economic crisis, political shifts in power, technological advances and the re-imagined world of consumerism) to know it to be true.

We live in a VUCA*world, and that’s definitely not going to change anytime soon. So how do we learn to become increasingly more agile, build up our personal and organisational resilience and learn to love change? Here are a few pointers that can really make a difference.

1. Tap into two powerful types of emotional drive

Emotions is a double edge sward – sometimes we want to escape and move away from whatever is causing a painful situation and other times were propelled towards by something we want to get closer to. Ticking both boxes by appealing to both types of motivations not only engages people, but builds agile mind-sets of organisations consistently future focused.

2. Knowing ‘why’ helps it make sense

Most of us know that feeling of unease that can come about when we’re not really sure why something is happening or where it’s leading. Whilst some like to head-first into the unknown, others are more hesitant. Having the background and context for any change ahead can really help us make sense of what’s going on. And when we understand something, even if we don’t agree with it, fear often subsides and those first steps in the new direction can begin.

3. Create a sense of urgency

But not a sense of panic! This can be a fine line to tread. A sense of urgency, when positioned thoughtfully can produce the much need spark to set the wheels in motion. People need to feel that whatever changes are afoot, they are important and necessary to the organisation. Staying the same is not an option. Even if the change is risky. This approach comes with a health warning though – use it when it genuinely is a moment for urgency and courage.

4. Create an igniting future

Ever found it difficult to go on holiday? Thinking about fabulous destinations? Almost tasting the great food you’ll eat? Maybe even hopping out of bed with no trouble at all in the wee small hours to make the long journey? Most of us have no trouble at all. Because when the future we imagine is exciting and full of potential, it becomes easy to move towards it. It’s something that we want to make happen, not something that is being “done to us.” And that makes a huge difference. When John F. Kennedy announced to the world that ‘America was going to put a man on the moon and bring him back down again, safely” he had no idea how it could be done. But it was such a powerful ambition that it galvanised not just the whole of NASA but the American nation too. So, what’s your ‘Man on the moon’ going to be?

Three things you can do now

  1. Get clarity about the change that’s needed and the reasons why
  2. Make both sides of the emotional seesaw work for you. If it’s an urgent and important change, unearth and share the sense of urgency
  3. Paint your igniting futures to share with everyone that needs to come on the journey with you

*Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous