Leading Change: 5 Questions Every Leader Should Ask
Navigating through change is one of the
biggest challenges leaders face.
Usually, significant change happens every now and then. But over the
past year-and-a-half, we've seen more change than most leaders see in an entire
As much as you might not like it, you know life always brings the unexpected. The real question is
what are you going to do about it?
Getting back on track
experiencing a significant period of unwanted change a few years ago. During
that time, I brought together my top leaders and we worked to develop
a roadmap for moving forward, despite the challenges we faced.
We used five
questions to help us think through our situation. These questions proved to be
the turning point – shifting our mindset from frustration to future-focused,
from resentful to resilient. Once we made this critical shift, our actions
questions are outlined below, along with some additional insights to help you
navigate change. I suggest you bring your team together and share these
questions with them. Think things
through as a team. Encourage robust
debate and blue-sky ideas. Then build consensus for a new way forward.
What is our
reality? This is the place where you must begin. Whether you like what's
happening to you or not, you must be willing to face it and accept it. Ask yourself: What changes are occurring specifically? How are these things impacting us? What new
challenges are we facing as a result?
Consider both internal
and external factors – and feelings. It's important to get everything out on
the table, good and bad. Attempt to understand the full scope of the change.
What can't we
control? This is a chance to
identify and accept those factors that are not now (and probably never will be)
within your control – an important step to take in this process. You don't want
to waste time and energy focusing too much on these things as that will keep
you stuck in a state of frustration.
inability to control certain things helps you leave these issues behind so you
can focus on moving forward. Once you
accept "what's so" you can move to "what's next."
What can we
control? When you reach this
point in the change conversation, you should begin to see a mindset shift. Now
you realize there are many things that are still within your control, and that
feels empowering and energizing.
Step back and look
at the big picture. Chances are you still have control over a lot of things,
such as your: ability to serve clients/customers, attitude, commitment, focus
on excellence, pride in your work, impact for good, culture, communication, how
you get things done, and how you show up every day. Also, likely your health, family
As your list begins to grow, you will also see your team begin to change. You'll likely observe that their thinking, behavior and comments shift from being:
Reactive to proactive
Cautious to opportunistic
Fearful to forceful
Resentful to resilient
Grumbling to grateful
This shift allows you to begin focusing on which levers you can pull and what changes you can make to design a new path forward.
What do we want
to achieve? Once you and your
team are focused on the future, your ideas will begin to reflect a sense of
optimism and anticipation. You can begin
to ask questions like: What does a "win" look like now? What benefits would be
realized from success? How will we feel when we have achieved our goals?
Be specific about
what you hope to achieve through – or in spite of – change. The more powerfully
you envision the future, the more motivated you will be to achieve it and the
more willing you will be to stick with it when the going gets tough.
vision down (even if it scares you a little), and let that vision guide your
priorities and plans from here.
How does our
strategy need to change? This is the roll-up-your-sleeves
part of the process. You can't get to your destination without a plan, so what
do you need to do to get where you want to go?
It's important to
listen carefully to your team and include all the things that must happen in
order to achieve the results you want. For planning purposes, just list the
major activities and key areas that must be addressed. You can fill in the
details when the overall strategy is clear.
Once everyone is in
agreement about how to move forward, encourage the team not to look back, but
to keep their eyes focused on the future. By working together and staying committed
to the goal, success becomes more achievable.