Surprises are the new normal

The Harvard Business Review recently stated that surprises are the new normal in organisations (reference here). When these surprises result in you having to implement unwanted and unsettling change, you need to be a resilient leader.

Being a resilient leader requires helping your team members stay task focused and productive, operating as thought it’s “business as usual” when it’s clearly not. Critically, you and your team members need to stress positive, and not allow any negative stress from work or life to influence each other.

What can you do if your team isn’t resilient, and doesn’t cope well with setbacks and unwelcome change? What do you do if they become demoralized, loose energy or resist change despite the usual change management activities (here)?

Four reactions to setbacks and unwelcome change

Our research has found that there are four broad types of team member reactions’ to setbacks and unwelcome change, each with an appropriate leadership response to enhance their resilience:

1. Flourishing Behavior is characterized by having a positive attitude, being open to the strategy and change initiatives, personally growing and learning.

What to do? This behavior is what you want from your team members! Keep them on-sides and energized by re-emphasizing the journey you all are on, providing recognition, giving regular updates and opportunities to lead initiatives. Don’t neglect them – they are your lever to achieve your goals and positively the resilience of the others.

For example: “I need you to make this reorganization work, and so I am appealing to you to work with me to make the best of what’s happening. If we support each other, and work together, I believe that we achieve the best outcome for the organisation and for us.”

2. Quitting Behavior starts off enthusiastically, but becomes disillusioned when the going gets tough, blames others, becomes resentful and withdraws.

What to do? Change their thinking to be more optimistic. Do this by re-framing the negative situation by highlighting what they can learn or potential opportunities. That will inspire hope. For example:

“Let’s view this tough project as an opportunity to learn new skills and processes. Think of it as an opportunity to grow and develop our skill-set so that it doesn’t become redundant.”

3. Drowning Behavior is very soon overwhelmed by challenge and changes, becomes negative and dejected, and does the minimum to comply.

What to do? Help them solve the issues which are preventing them getting on-board the program. Although this behavior is the hardest to change, it can be done by helping them make changes in their lives that are keeping them stuck. For example:

“Let’s explore what’s keeping you stuck. Let’s first identify what you are doing that is not working and start with that. Then let’s identify a small step you can take to change.”

4. Resisting Behavior is characterized by narrow thinking, being stubbornly unconvinced, resists change and is often loudly critical.

What to do? Don’t give up on them just because they may seem to be the most difficult to deal with. At least their opinion is out in the open. It may be helpful to firstly get their compliance to follow the procedure or to complete the project on time. Then you can deal the issue that’s causing the unhelpful behavior. For example:

“In the team meeting you said on three occasions that you did not support the change because management had not consulted widely. This is despite you and me meeting twice to iron out problems. I felt sad and disappointed that we have not resolved this. My request to you now is to go back to you desk and urgently tackle the backlog, and then lets meet at lunch time to sort this out. OK?”

Resilient leadership is most powerful when leaders are personally resilient and are able to coach team members exhibiting these four types of behavior. The outcome is better team member coping and enhanced change take-up for the organisation. More details on this approach are available here.