Leading Through the Winds of Change


During a recent leadership lecture, Navy Vice Admiral Raquel Bono said, “Leadership is all about how we help others navigate change.” It is a simple but powerful statement. Human beings are creatures of habit. We tend to find complacency in routines and tend to avoid the unknown. The “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mentality that many government employees seem to share is unrealistic and leads to a lack of vision that is difficult to overcome.

In previous blog entries, I have discussed how it is imperative for leaders to set the example for others to follow. Setting an example during changes in policies and procedures is especially important. Some leaders are more adept than others are in dealing with change and welcome the challenges that accompany managing their teams through the unexpected.

Understanding that change is necessary for growth sometimes requires stepping out of our comfort zone in order to accept the necessary changes that stimulate leaders and organizations to grow. The desire or ability to embrace change is a skill that needs to be learned and nurtured. When the winds of change start swirling around the team, managers need to know what to do. Teams will always look at their leads for guidance during challenging times and it is important for managers to be prepared to answer questions for a successful transition.

These are some recommendations to improve how to deal with the unexpected and to lead your team through change:

  • Do not expect perfection – Although in very rare occasions change can happen overnight, it is my experience that it usually does not and that it takes time for people to adjust. 
  • Remain positive – Remember that even though you may not agree with a decision made by your leader, as a manager it is your responsibility to support it and help your employees through the transition.
  • Keep an open mind – It may not seem like a good idea from your perspective but if you give it time, you may see improvements and understand the benefits of change. You will not know until you try. Always be willing to try something different and adjust as necessary if it does not work.
  • Always set the example – If you do not agree, do not complain about it, instead do something about it and be the changing force behind the solution. I always tell employees to not focus on the problems, try to focus instead on the possible solutions for any challenges the team currently faces. It is possible that someone on the team will present an idea you previously did not consider.

I have witnessed leaders singlehandedly destroy the morale of their teams by publicly voicing how “dumb” or “stupid” a new mandated process is going to be. I have attended staff meetings where the speaker shares new changes in policy in such a negative light that employees become angry and disruptive. It is okay to be well-liked by employees but to voice frustrations to direct reports should never be considered acceptable or an effective bonding tool.

To communicate to your employees how new organizational procedures may not work or how unwise it is to add new processes for a system that “already works” will make it that much difficult for your team to transition and to embrace change. The inability to embrace change can prove to be a costly and destructive shortsightedness for any business or governmental organization.  

Alberto Principe is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Avatar photo Nicole Blake Johnson

Thanks for sharing, Alberto! I’ve found these recommendations to be true whether you’re working in government or not. This isn’t always easy to do, but it is very important and true: “If you do not agree, do not complain about it, instead do something about it and be the changing force behind the solution.”

John Wright

This should be part of change management 101 for all government leaders. As government employees we are continually faced with the risk of rigid and/or obtuse actions of the past being reified by poorly administered change.

Eric Murray

Many of us have been around for for us to have experience first hand how changes can create challenges, opportunities, and/or opportunities that may seem challenging to some of those who have not, and perhaps even some, who have been around to experience changes in leadership and we are still here with new found knowledges and experience that have evolved from that of the unknown path and/or journey which is ahead of us…
Standing together — though even if standing apart at times — on perhaps certain issues, items, and/or policies one thing for certain is that we are all in this together and from past experiences I have seen those that have once had different ideas or views find ways to work and even to come together while even still being apart — as in that of shall we say for use of example: Friends, family, and sometimes even strangers who get together from a multitudial vast array of of circumstances, chance, occurrences, and purposes. And what if…in theory…a person who was unknown came be from that of which once was curiosity, concern, and purpose to see how they could possible help…? Would the person’s and/their ideas be accepted? Could, would and/or should the person’s and/or their ideas be accepted? Would it be one of instantaneous acceptance or perhaps something that would come over time if at all by that of none, some, and/or all? Could in theory some who once saw, viewed, and/or had certain stances in the past regarding change see things with a new view or at least that of an open mind? Throughout time I have growth-oriented beings from that of the individual to that of groups, organizations, businesses, industry, government, and military who have embraced new ideas and change…
Thank you for taking the time to read this…
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