The winds of change companies face each year have escalated. They’ve become tornadoes. Companies today do not face one big change each fiscal year — they often face five or more. Changes in customer demands, marketplace shifts, employee needs, and leadership happen simultaneously, leaving an aftermath of chaos.
Chaos causes organizational leaders to lose two things: confidence and strategic focus. Operating without confidence and focus is dangerous for any company, especially those in unpredictable markets.
Under duress, leaders and their teams often lose confidence in their ability to make decisions, which leads to operational inefficiencies, performance setbacks, and competing operational goals. Strategic focus loses out to chasing any way to make a buck. Chaotic leadership teams miss opportunities to predict and mobilize for change. They will end up reacting to change instead, which leaves them without strategic focus.
Change is not optional, and the challenges organizational leaders confront are complex. Add to the complexity the fact that business changes and challenges occur suddenly and simultaneously, and it is no wonder chaos ensues. Leaders can predict, thus prepare for and prevent, the loss of confidence and focus caused by the chaos by employing the following tactics regularly:
1. Reinforce your foundation. Re-dedicate yourself to the purpose of the company, then talk about it with others so they connect with the mission too. Refer to the mission when you evaluate critical strategic moves. This can unify your team and soothe short-term panic. The unity and serenity will help keep confidence and focus intact and panic at bay.
2. Solidify the vision. Confidence and focus give way to panic when people lose sight of the vision. They may see it as impossible (“There’s no way we’ll reach $200 million in five years!”) or improbable (“No company like ours has ever grown that fast!”). So review the vision to ensure it remains possible and probable, adjust it if needed, then speak about it with your team. Encourage talk about the vision and mission to remind people not to panic about short-term conditions.
3. Anticipate shifts. Pay attention to your stakeholders, not just your stockholders. Recognize shifts in their behavior so you can anticipate likely moves. Your awareness will enable you to influence the moves rather than react to them too late. Influence builds confidence and strengthens focus.
4. Communicate confidence, progress, and hope. Too many internal communications emphasize the old adage about how hard change is and how no one likes it. Those are the wrong messages to send when changes come like tornadoes and you need people to adjust. Plus, the adage is wrong. What people hate is being blindsided by changes and being without resources needed to adjust. Speak of the positive opportunities the change may bring as you request their support and ideas. Once you’ve reconnected with the mission and solidified the vision, you can communicate with transparency and without sugarcoating.
5. Listen. Employees don’t panic, lose focus or resist change for no reason, like the toddler who says, “no!” to every request. They have reasons, and leaders would be wise to listen. When you’ve listened, you’ll be better equipped to communicate what matters most to your people in a manner more likely to be received well. Listening might mean focus groups, town halls, or management roundtables. One of the best ways to seek input is by walking around and engaging with people on an informal basis regularly. It’s simple, yet many leaders don’t make time for engaging with people for the sake of listening and learning.
6. Instill expectations of accountability. A culture of low confidence and low strategic focus will become a culture of mediocrity. To avoid sliding into a culture of mediocrity, verify that your delegation and goal-setting practices include this crucial step: Confirm performance metrics in advance. There may be a variety of qualitative and quantitative metrics. The key is to be clear about them in advance and bring them up when you assess performance. It should be no surprise to your team when you ask about performance-to-plan and hold people accountable for their performance.
7. Update operation mechanisms. A very practical action leaders can take is to assess and adjust their operational mechanisms. For example, many organizations rely on an annual strategic-planning process and use quarterly meetings to gauge progress, however, those quarterly meetings become dull presentations about what happened. People don’t listen to the presentations, and frankly, it’s too late to do anything anyway. Those meetings consume valuable resources, yet often don’t accomplish anything a report about the quarter couldn’t do. Instead of presentations about the past, consider how best to position the company for the future. Use the quarterly meetings to unify the team to collaborate going forward instead of commiserating about the past.
These tactics won’t prevent tornadoes of change, but they can boost confidence and inspire strategic focus to safeguard companies from the damage caused by tornadoes.
Editor’s Note: This Article originally appeared on Forbes and is featured here with Author permission.