No matter how hard you’re working to give your team a sense of direction, as in To Follow the Leader, Employees Need a Sense of Direction, or to help them cope with the realities of change, as in Two Truths and Four Ways of Driving Successful Change, it can be a little draining to see how much more remains to be done. And that’s true even if you’re an optimist. Or maybe particularly if you’re an optimist, since surely you expected things to feel better by now!
1. Listen Like You’ve Never Listened Before
Listen to your team’s feedback as if you’re still at the beginning of the change initiative and you’re still completely open-minded. Try to learn what everyone needs, and consider all your alternatives. Listen thoroughly, as if everything depends completely on your understanding — because, of course, it does.
When you’re deep in the messy middle of change-making and the end is not yet in sight, employees need to know that their concerns and struggles are being heard and attended to. Fresh listening gives you fresh insights that will help you rethink and adjust your tactics so you can manage the process as smoothly and effectively as possible.
2. Make Your Smallest Move to Keep Moving
Whenever you’re feeling stuck — which can happen multiple times during an elongated change process — don’t wallow in either self-pity or self-flagellation. Don’t waste a breath on “Oh, poor me!” or “Why am I such a dithering wimp!?”
Instead, pick the smallest thing you can do right away, and do it. Have one conversation. Draft one email. Draw a mind map or flow chart on your whiteboard. Research something. Keep track of all these small, specific tasks, and pay attention to the patterns. Which steps got you the most traction? Which ones got other people interested? Can you repeat any of them to keep moving?
3. Scan Your Path in Both Directions
Take a good, long, clear-eyed look ahead of you at how much there’s still left to do. And even if it seems daunting, don’t despair. Instead, look beyond that, to where you’ll be and what you’ll have accomplished once the change is completed — after you’ve traversed the remaining crags and cliffs in the vast mountain range before you.
Now turn all the way around and look behind you at the peaks and valleys you’ve already crossed. Consider the problems you’ve already addressed, and then look back even farther at the opportunity costs of those problems.
Congratulate yourself for having recognized the path and started the journey. Rouse your comrades, gather up your provisions, face your forward direction, and put one foot in front of the other. Again. And again. You’ll get there!