However, if you are facing (or in the midst of) a really big change, intuition is one of those things that can all too easily lead you astray.
In this post I will briefly describe some of the ways in which difficult change calls for counter-intuitive action.
If you have a “Type A” approach to life, you may well find yourself in a leadership position when faced with change, whether at the personal or organizational level. Among the characteristics often seen in Type A’s are: rigidly organized, impatient, and avoidance of mistakes (or at least an avoidance of admitting to them). Day-to-day, these characteristics might serve you well; if the change you are facing is highly disruptive they can do just the opposite.
By definition, the really big changes we face come with surprises, unexpected twists and turns, unanticipated challenges. Yes, being organized helps prepare you, and allows you to move through the change in a more certain way. The caveat is “a more certain way,” not a certain way. Being too rigidly organized, having an expectation that things will all go the way they are planned planned, will test your patience…certainly not healthy if you are impatient to start with.
Impatience, the swift move from decision to action, is a risk from the outset of large-scale change. Remember “uninformed optimism” [see What’s Your Story? (Part 1)]. Impatience can easily get you on the wrong path forward if you have not clearly articulated your story. In addition, it will put distance between you and others whose understanding, commitment, and alignment are essential to the success of the change.
As for mistakes…they are part of the territory. You will make them. if you don’t acknowledge and own them, you are not going to be able to correct them, make the needed adjustments, and get back on the path to success.
“Don’t worry. Be happy!”
This may be a useful lens for seeing things during relative calm. Whether at home or at work, lower stress and satisfaction lead to higher productivity and a better quality of life. But, the disruption of change brings with it worry; frowns are liable to replace the smiles at times. If you want to keep people happy, lessen the change. if you want the change to deliver on its promise, find ways to help them be successful despite their discomfort. (And remember, the same holds true for you as you move through the change… you won’t always be comfortable; you can be successful.)
Big change requires decisive leadership!
There are times when building consensus is important. When engaging in a major change, however, consensus is not going to determine the path forward. Some people are less comfortable with change than others; some are more secure in trusting fate or sticking with the status quo. Some people will see the future through a lens closely aligned to your own; others will have a widely divergent view.
Listen to those voices that are important to hear. Encourage them to challenge you, to disagree, to offer alternative perspectives. But be clear as to how (and by whom) decisions will be made. When the time comes for decisions to be made, if you are the decision maker, make and own the decisions.
There are many other ways the intuition and other “steady state” ways of doing things can trip you up during major change. What has your experience taught you? Please post it below.