I am seeing a pattern in requests from leaders at various companies and thought I might pass on a few tips about how to deal with it. I call this pattern: “How do I Rewire My Team.”
Leaders from different companies and different disciplines continue to describe how internal and external pressures are demanding the team change the way they work. They need to get team members to do things they did not sign up for.
However, leaders say that their teams often lack the skills or desire to make the change. They have talented people but what the market needs is different from what the team possesses. In many cases, their people have spent years becoming experts in one area and now the market is not rewarding that expertise. Leaders do not want to get rid of their people but they feel stuck.
What can you do? Here are few ideas I have learned from working with different teams:
Engage the team in discovering what the market is doing. Rather than doing this yourself and being the lone wolf who sees what’s on the horizon, get your team involved in assessing the market. Have them do the research and share with other team members. Bring in customers to tell their story of how their needs have changed. The power of an outside voice is huge. (Note: In rare circumstances, you do not want the team aware of the changes they are about to face because you need them to focus. But this is the exception, not the rule).
Provide a path forward. Look at the change as a 6 month to 2 year experience, depending on the nature of the change. 1) First and foremost: Clarify expectations. Define what “it” looks like. 2) Support those expectations with ongoing training and support. Do not expect a one time training to change behavior. 3) Provide weekly reminders in staff meetings and one-on-ones to drive home the needed skills. 4) Help create a visual path of how the individuals and team will make progress. Make it tangible. 5) Find a way for short-term successes. 6) Find a team or leader who has been through a similar change and succeeded. Have them talk with your team. 7) Get serious about finding ways to reward the new behaviors.
Provide a path out. Not everyone will want to make the change. My unscientific estimate is that 10-35% of a team will not be willing to make the change. Rather than putting them down, honor them and help them find a place to use their skills. There may still be places where they can use those skill within the organization; but sometimes they have to look outside the organization. Respect them for their contribution. They set the foundation for you to be a point to make the change. Celebrate their impact.
Get serious about you changing. It is not enough to rewire your team. You also have to change the way you lead. What you talk about daily is what is important. What do you reward? What do you read? Who do you spend time with? What habits do you have to change? Seeing you change is a key element in helping others change.
Changing yourself and the team is tough. But, the good news is that teams are successfully making the changes they need to make. Team members are finding they have skills and confidence they did not know they possessed. They are delivering new results.
Action request: Take a moment and let me know how broad this issue is for you. Are you experiencing it personally? Are you seeing other teams around you go through it? Share your challenges and successes in rewiring your team. Your experience may hold the key that others need. I will pass on what I learn.