Successful businesses are agile and sustained with the help of resilient people. They transform over time, striving to proactively meet the needs of the ever-evolving market. Additionally, they work to accommodate shifts in cultural values. However, the key to making any transition successful is understanding that your people are essential to the process. Keep in mind, change is hard — especially for committed employees who have been around for a longer period of time.
However, it’s become clear that we must appreciate and trust our people more as we navigate a post-Covid world. Workers have proven their resilience by navigating a global pandemic in both their careers and personal lives. The reality as leaders is, our people were forced to change everything they know about the workplace environment throughout the pandemic — and more often than not, they rose to the occasion.
As businesses focus on effective transformation for the future, putting people first is the only viable approach. The best of the best organizations in a post-Covid world will lead with trust in and a deep appreciation for their people first.
Promote Buy-In by Example: Be Committed to Living the Change
It’s expected that an executive approaching a business transformation will encourage their team to get on board — but it can be challenging to make this change last. A few weeks might go by and suddenly you find yourself reverting back to the old way of doing things. While you might excuse your behavior, don’t assume your practices have gone unnoticed by your team.
It’s critical the buy-in is demonstrated from the top down. When a leader isn’t fully committed, their team will sense it. And that’s bound to affect the transition because teams never function optimally when their leader sends mixed signals. They may ignore or challenge the new protocols set in place.
Additionally, there’s always a chance that your lack of consistency could flare up a toxic “us” versus “them” environment, pushing you farther from your goals. Conflicts will slow the transformation process and almost always delay or prevent the outcomes you desire. When trust isn’t earned — or worse, it’s broken — transformation will be impossible with your current team.
In contrast, when leadership truly commits to living out the transformation, it becomes an expectation of the newly created environment. Therefore, you must trust that your people will step up. Building this trust will encourage them to be involved and committed to the process of change, accelerating employee buy-in. People will feel more ownership, empowerment, and motivation about the strategies implemented, creating a shared experience among the group. These intangible benefits make the team more likely to execute the plans required to successfully transform the business as quickly as the marketplace demands.
How to Empower Your Team to Lead the Transformation
When you’re trying to implement a transformation, it’s expected that your workforce will be divided. In my experience, teams are often divided fairly evenly:
1/3 will be genuinely excited about the opportunity. Their views are consistent with the strategic changes you’ve shared in your plan. They’ll feel a sense of validation knowing you’re finally tracking with their own personal creative genius.
1/3 will be skeptical, often driven by fear of the unknown — but you can win them over. They’ll seize the opportunity created if you reassure confidence in them, empower them, and demonstrate good leadership.
1/3 will be reluctant to change and resistant to new approaches. They don’t see your vision as a leader and don’t understand or trust why these changes need to be made.
Your job is to empower action and create opportunities for the third who are genuinely excited about transformation. When empowered with the opportunity, these passionate visionaries will be self-motivated. This will drive unparalleled action and be your biggest asset in building a culture of trust and transformation. They will jumpstart the transformation and influence the culture, likely leading to a critical mass of motivated employees.
Typically, people are motivated by one or more of the following: job security, money, promotion, or recognition. However, these can only motivate an employee for so long. Also, focus on creating opportunities toward continual personal growth for your employees.
Personal growth opportunities help the individual understand how the needed transformation aligns with their goals. They also show your team they are trusted, empowered, and have the ability to create the environment that will be most fulfilling long-term. It’s not just a company transformation; it’s a professional transformation for them as well.
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Making Transformation a Positive Experience
Our lives and businesses have been significantly disrupted over the last year throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. People have experienced the loss of loved ones and unpredictable health situations. Loss of jobs and financial stability. Their children’s education and childcare were significantly altered. Additionally, quarantine initiated loneliness and isolation, during a rise in the call for equality, justice, and personal safety. Yet, workforces have increased their efficiency.
The leaders who have revealed an authentic window into their lives during the pandemic have narrowed the distance between them and their employees — therefore creating a shared experience of empathy and trust. These things matter most in today’s world — and such leaders have created an advantage in a post-Covid world where employees have recalibrated the work-life equation.
Transformation starts with you — the leader — and the messages that you send to your employees. Focus on being intentional, clearly defining the priorities and shared outcomes tied to the organization’s vision. Prioritize creating personal growth opportunities and empowering your team as individuals to lead the transformation within your organization. They will far better inspire, motivate, and engage their peers to action. The faster you achieve a critical mass of committed employees, the faster everyone within your organization will begin to reap the rewards of a transformation. The opportunity in a post-Covid world is tremendous when you put people first.