My friend George Couros reminds us in his book The Innovator’s Mindset that “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”. I wholeheartedly agree.
In my experience, it can be a long journey for some people on the team to see the upside of the change. Unfortunately, the reality is they often get overwhelmed by it. As an educational leader who admittedly asked a lot of people, I often found myself in my office or in a classroom where someone on my team would confess that they were overwhelmed and didn’t think they could “do it”. As a leader who genuinely cares about people and believes wholeheartedly in supporting my team, this was always challenging for me.
So it got me thinking… How could I respond in a way that conveys my genuine compassion for the person without letting her “off the hook”?
Over time, and after a few bumpy conversations, I found that there were five components to a successful conversation with a person who was feeling overwhelmed by the work we were trying to do:
- Acknowledge change can be hard. Don’t dismiss their feelings of being overwhelmed or the feelings of “I can’t do this”. They are real… treat them as such. Express understanding, demonstrate empathy and let them know you care.
- Remind them of the why. Revisit the reasons for the change, the best hopes for the change, the “data” that helped us decide this change was critical for our school community. If you followed the Lead Like a PIRATE practice of involving the people impacted by the decision in the decision making process, reconnect them with the reasons they decided to support it in the first place. Be genuine, be specific, be thorough.
- Remind them of their value. Let them know you believe in them, that they are an essential member of the team and that we can’t do it without them. Share the confidence you have in them to do this.
- Offer support. Ask “How can I help?” “What do you need from me?” “Is there something we can take off your plate?” If they share something that you can do… Do it! Commit! Follow through and make sure they have the support they need.
- Thank them. Express your gratitude for their commitment, for their perseverance, for their willingness to push through the challenges to make school AMAZING for kids.
While not foolproof, I (and leaders I have coached) have used this process many times with great success. Change IS an opportunity to do something amazing, but we also have to be wiling to coach and support our crew on the roller coaster ride that change can bring for them.