Change is a constant. Leaders, known for steering the ship, sometimes encounter uncharted waters filled with their own complex emotions and the challenges of organizational dynamics. Such was the case several years ago with a leader I was consulting, who was adept at leading products and people but found themselves at a new frontier of responsibility in their organization.
This leader was comfortable managing day-to-day operations, but now they were responsible for shaping the organization to prepare them to modernize their approach to serving their customers. We worked together over several months to develop a plan of action and establish a resilient mindset for this leader to carry them through some challenges they would face for the first time - and perhaps some difficult conversations they would need to have. However, I received a call about a year after our time together. The leader was in the throes of complex emotions, primarily worry and frustration, due to a strategic contributor resigning. They feared this departure signaled a weakness in their leadership and that it was now a leak in their ship and they would rapidly lose staff.
The instinct in such situations might be to view the events as negative reflections on one's leadership. However, the emotional echo a leader creates in such times can shape the organization's future and inform how the rest of the organization should feel. Instead of succumbing to a narrative of loss, we worked to shift the perspective. We focused on framing the resignation as a celebration of the departing employee's prospects, thereby also emphasizing the strength and opportunity present within the organization.
Working with your company means you will not only do great work together in the present but also remain relevant for many other opportunities.
Furthermore, a leader's impact on a strategic contributor is another way of influencing the world outside their organization. Consider the new connections and potential access (legal constraints considered) to new information on how others solve problems that might be unlocked.
Be mindful of the emotions we present to the people around us, emotions are information that we use to understand how we should feel.
Leaders face a choice in every challenge: to let the narratives and thoughts in the mind dominate or learn to lean into these moments and reshape them into stories of strength and opportunity.
After our sessions, the leader began to view challenges with hope and excitement, understanding that their emotional resonance sets the tone for the entire organization. So, to all leaders facing changes and challenges, remember that the narrative you carry and echo forward can transform an apparent loss into a collective gain. Embrace change, celebrate growth, and let your leadership echo with positivity and resilience.
Exercise: Reframing Leadership Narratives
Objective: To help leaders develop resilience and a positive perspective in the face of organizational changes and challenges.
- Pen and paper or a digital document
- A quiet space for reflection
- Reflection on Past Challenges: Think of a challenge you faced as a leader, particularly one that initially seemed negative. Write a brief description of this challenge.
- Initial Emotional Response: Reflect on your initial emotional response to this challenge. Did you feel fear, frustration, or worry? Write down these emotions.
- Reframing the Narrative: Now, revisit this challenge with the intent to reframe it. How could this challenge be seen as an opportunity for growth or a positive change? For example, could a team member's departure have opened doors for others to step up or bring fresh perspectives?
- Creating a Positive Echo: Consider how your emotional response to this challenge might have affected your team. How could your more positive perspective have created a different 'emotional echo' in your organization?
- Writing a New Narrative: Rewrite the story of your past challenge, focusing on strength, opportunity, and growth. Emphasize how a positive leadership approach could have transformed the situation.
- Planning for Future Challenges: Think about a current or future challenge. Using the insights gained from this exercise, write a plan to approach this challenge with positivity and resilience. Focus on how you can lead by example to set a constructive tone for your team.
- Sharing and Discussion (Optional): If comfortable, share your reflections with a trusted colleague or mentor. Discuss how reframing challenges can lead to better leadership outcomes and a more positive organizational culture.
This exercise aims to help leaders realize that their perspective and emotional response can significantly influence their team and the overall direction of their organization, especially during times of change. By practicing reframing challenges into opportunities, leaders can foster a more positive and resilient organizational culture.
Until the end of March 2024 I am offering a free one hour sessions until the end of March 2024, I am offering free one-hour sessions with leaders or those inspired to lead to discuss topics or challenges you face.