I don’t need to tell you that we’ve had a LOT of change to deal with over the last year. There’s not one aspect of our lives that has not been touched by the pandemic in some way. I can’t think of another time in my life, when all humans globally were going through the same thing at the same time. It’s mind blowing. We’ve all had to deal with life changes we didn’t ask for.
Managing changes we didn’t seek is much harder for us than managing changes we chose for ourselves; and neither type of change is easy when we don’t understand them and can’t proactively plan for the impacts. Add all these changes up and we see change fatigue. We become burned out, disengaged, frustrated, tired. We can’t always mitigate every impact for ourselves and our teams, however, we can tap into these 3 ways to look change in the eye and lessen its glare.
- Be transparent with your team when you don’t have an answer, and tell them when you do. It is sometimes tough to have no answers, especially when you’ve got so many looking up to you for stability. Making statements or commitments for what you think will happen next can come back to sting you and erode your team’s trust in your leadership. Don’t let uncertainty get in the way of honesty; don’t tell your teams what they want to hear, tell them how it is. With so many unknowns, it’s important that leaders build and maintain trust. It’s OK to say you don’t know something; and tell them right away when you do know something. Sharing news and updates in a timely manner shows you are putting them first.
- Try to minimize schedule changes for your team. As much as we humans like variety, we like to know what’s happening and when, so we can manage our time. Think about how much time you spend managing your calendar…and when you think about the stress that can go into that, recall how you feel when you see requests to shift meeting times around. Your employees’ time is valuable to them, and the less changes they see on their calendars, the better. There’s reactions and emotions that happen when meeting organizers change times around, especially when the changes come with no explanation. These seemingly small changes can certainly exacerbate existing change fatigue. If you do need to make changes to dates and times, offer a clear explanation; honesty and transparency is the way.
- Find out, and find ways to support and solve, for what really matters to your employees during these uncertain times. How well do you know your employees? When it comes to their jobs and their career, what matters most to them right now? What bothers them, and when are they most fulfilled? Creating a psychologically safe space for your employees to share with you is part of building and maintaining trust. Often, it’s not the big things that weigh them down, it’s the little things. Are you intentionally seeking and celebrating the work they find most fulfilling? Are you helping them remove or solve small, yet high-impact annoyances? Sharing your own examples of what bothers you and what inspires you, helps build trust and empathy. Over time, you’ll see your employees open up more to you. Actively listen, and be intentional about removing barriers and finding work that highlights the capabilities they love using the most.
Leading during rapid change in uncertain times is tough, no question about that. Remember that you’re a leader if you are influencing and supporting others in positive ways. Even if you don’t have people reporting into you, you can still use the tips above to be a leader among your peers. The key take-away is that transparency, trust, empathy, and managing changes big and small all contribute to reducing the effects of change fatigue. Let’s all pledge to be there for each other now, and always.
Lead on, everyone!