The speed of innovation is accelerating and embracing the future is the way to stay competitive, but there is more to it than simply jumping from one short-term fix to another. Followers expect a future-focused strategy to have a marked beginning and a measurable ending and when these factors are not present; they eventually lose faith in their leader.
The lesser-compensated employees, who really do not have a pool of assets to drawn upon are unable to transition to another company when things start to unravel. They resent the higher-paid managers, who do not appear to be harmed financially because they are able to seek employment elsewhere. The lower level workers are not as mobile—it is harder for them to leave their homes and families to look for another job.
If you are ever in the position of pulling people together when things are falling apart take the time to prepare your team for new ways of thinking before taking the next step. While you have their attention call the future into question and examine old habits to determine what is out of alignment with your vision.
Full disclosure regarding the potential downside of what lies ahead exposes everyone to the truth about the difficulties they are about to face. More importantly it triggers the search for new tools and new ways to make change happen. Lastly, it generates a whole new set of critical questions like:
- Are we missing something?
- What current resources are available?
- Whose help are we going to need?
- How are we going to get them involved?
Followers need answers to these questions before they are ready to start moving in a new direction. Thereafter when a new scheme is in the planning stage, people will consider what they are doing now and immediately offer suggestions for how to get it done better, cheaper, faster as it develops.
You will know when this happens because their focus shifts from the past to the present with a view toward their future. They will start posing questions such as:
- How is what I am supposed to do now different from what I did before?
- How much time do I have to figure out my new job?
- What will happen if I do not do it right?
- If I have questions, to whom do I go for answers?
These task-based questions must be addressed before your followers will be ready to embrace the future under your leadership. If answers are not forthcoming, they will not risk aligning themselves with a potential failure. There also needs to be some collective discourse around the subject of change itself. Not just what is different, but how is what your proposing going to affect them personally and professionally.
Once there is acceptance and understanding of what is expected then all you have to do as a change leader is keep your followers informed as deviations occur and praise them when they make the necessary adjustments.