When she called me, I thought she just wanted to have a coffee and a nice talk. No surprise, we have been friends for 20 years now. But, this time, she was making changes and wanted some advice.
My friend was just been promoted, among her peers, just after her boss retired. They, she and her peers, had a story together. Many years of hard work have allowed them to know perfectly to each other. This has evident pros and cons.
She didn’t expect to be promoted: she has never been very much into the politics required by the position because she really loves her job, devoting all her time to doing her best and training the new ones joining the team. She is respected because of that and her wide knowledge on the topic. I haven’t mentioned she is a surgeon, and she is excellent at it.
Her first reaction was to reject her promotion. I’m not ready, I don’t want to do politics – she said – I’m a doctor, not a manager. But, somehow, her former boss convinced her to say yes: This group needs a change, so does the work here. Your contribution should also change.
Therefore, out of the blue, she manages a team of more than 20 people in one of the most complicated times in recent history working in one of the most demanding fields: medicine.
Once she changed her mind, she really committed with the task, but she didn’t know where to start. There were many things to take care: after some recent events, the team is not a team anymore, the motivation is very low because they are exhausted, they are short of resources to take care of the work at hand and the performance was not good.
First, the vision
No matter how difficult things are now, what does future success look like? How will you be working in six months? What do you need to get that? And above all, why you need to change?
To make change happen you first need to create the right climate for change. To do so, you need to shape the future, give your people a reason to join your cause.
When we started talking, and she began to shape that future, she realized very soon she couldn’t do this alone.
Second, the people
Who you need to join? And how can you make them buy-in?
You should find who will help you: in your team and outside it. Explain the change and ask for help.
OK – she said. But even if I have the vision and that small group of people engaged, things will be the same. What’s next? Because we still need to do our work, and we have many problems.
Third, spread the vision
Communicate. Everyone should be involved from the beginning. That vision is the destination, not the way. Let them get into the details. Empower their roles and make them feel responsible and part of what is happening. Devote time to understand what their barriers are and how you can help.
I don’t know. Many of them don’t want me to make any changes. They want to maintain the old ways. We need to train new doctors, for example, and they don’t want to do that. There are many people more comfortable when working with someone experienced in the task. Training while working is hard. What can I do?
Fourth, lead by example
In making changes, promoting the right behaviours, setting the rules and, by the way, demolish some mental barriers is only possible if you lead by example. You must show the way.
If you are making changes, start by changing the way you do things. Others will follow.
What leaders do impact on the group culture more than you can think. If you need to set new ways of doing, you need to be the example. And being very conscious about your impact.
If I’m understanding well, I need to make clear statements about what I’m expecting and set the example – she smiled. Yes, I can do that. Anything else?
Yes, don’t forget this a journey. It will take time. And your main role should be directing and supporting the process and create the right conditions for your people to get there.