change leadership
May 7, 2020

Change – even big change – doesn’t change leadership

By William Buist

Building on our recent focus on adapting to online collaboration, let’s return to the subject of change leadership.

Up and down the country teams are crying out for leaders who can provide the vision & support needed to not just cope but thrive. To move beyond hunkering down in furlough or other suspended animation, to having a plan for what next.

So, given his work in mentoring business owners with such challenges, I’m delighted to welcome back guest blogger William Buist. He is a business mentor, professional speaker & collaboration strategist. Regular readers may recall William sharing before on collaboration, signposts & his podcast interview.

Over to William to remind us why our current change also needs leadership…

Businesses should know there will be change

All businesses know that there will be change. If they produce something that many people want and build a successful product or service that generates great results others will copy it. The competition will rise, and sometimes the competitors have the advantage of your learning and come to market with an even better offer.

Every business has to be evolving or, gradually or suddenly, it will find it’s no longer able to deliver the things that its customers need. Customers too, change. Their needs are affected by their circumstances and something that was a roaring success at some point can diminish in popularity.

Throughout the globe in 2020 we have seen this happen very quickly because of a highly contagious virus, Covid-19.

What is needed in times of change?

Sudden change, whatever its cause, needs resilience, it needs leadership and it needs courage. Whatever the case, the learning we can all take from Covid-19 will make us stronger as leaders and as businesses for years. 

Almost as soon as Covid19 caused the UK to lockdown I took a long look at my business. I thought about the main sources of business (Networking and referrals) and the main delivery mechanisms (monthly face to face meetings with clients) and realised that neither could continue as they are. The race to change was on.

I had used Zoom (a common video conferencing tool) for some time, mostly for occasional client meetings where a physical meeting wasn’t possible. But I hadn’t stretched the software. Now, there was a genuine existential fear in the minds of many businesses. For many, they too would have to learn and shift their business models quickly.

Everyone has experience of ways of working that may be relevant, and being open to listening to even the wildest ones is the difference between good leadership, and great leadership.

Adapting quickly takes practice

Strategically that ability to change the way you work quickly is a skill that we should all have but rarely practice. I chose to set up a regular (weekly) networking call to “Start The Week” at 9:00 every Monday. This time was chosen because I know that the mood in which we start something is the mood that pervades the working lives of people.

I wanted them all to start the week with a positive, motivating, entertaining start to the week. One that set them up to focus on what is possible, and not worry about what they could not control. The best possible start to their week, and I’ve seen some pretty spectacular work as a result.

Of course, it was a chance to do some networking too, and I knew it would encourage referrals amongst the group. It has, not just for business, but for mutual support.

Remember during times of change…

Here are five key things that we should all remember at times of significant change: 

1. Our viewpoint, our energy, and our encouragement will be reflected by the people we interact with. 

2. People need time to chat, gossip, share ‘secret’s’ discuss non-work issues, celebrate, commiserate and more. Make the time available for that, a few minutes at the start of the meeting before moving to the agenda will make the whole meeting work more effectively. 

3. Technology is just a means of communicating and sharing work. It’s never entirely natural, so think hard about how to make the technology an enabler of what you seek to do, and not the subject of it. 

4. Keeping instructions to their simplest and not having too many makes them much more effective. Signpost what people need to know now, to be effective. Then signpost the next thing they need, when they need it, not before.

5. You may be physically distant but sincerity and authenticity still cannot be faked, so be the best possible you, you can be.

Change focus but you still need to lead

Leadership doesn’t change because something has thrown you off the course you planned, or change the way your team now work. It just changes the focus of your attention. So think in their shoes, address their worries and redirect their skills to the new situation. Those are the things you always do though, aren’t they?

How are you leading your team through this change?

Thanks again William, for what is a really helpful build on your previous post about the need for ‘extra’ ordinary leadership. I hope that helped you, readers.

If you’ve read this post, first thank you & I hope it helped. Secondly, I’d love to hear back about your experience of leading during lockdown. How are you managing to adapt? What are you making sure to still do for your team? Let’s all keep sharing leadership tips as we learn together.