7 Key Questions You Need to Answer to Lead Changes at Work Successfully
Changes in our homes and workplaces are coming at us more frequently. For me, 2020 kicked off a rollercoaster of personal and professional change that I tried to "muscle through" with mixed success. When I finally started to follow my own advice and take time to notice my emotions and feelings, I felt better equipped to embrace the changes instead of just coping with them.
👇🏽 Here are the seven questions I use to help leaders understand their feelings about a change in the workplace and then lead through them!
Trying to "power through" changes in our lives & work places will eventually catch up with you. Take time to answer seven questions to embrace change:
- What emotions do you notice?
- What feelings are associated with these emotions?
- What thoughts do you have about the situation (change)?
- What could help you improve your emotions and feelings?
- What can you do to improve your emotions and feelings?
- What do you want your team (and leaders) to know?
- How do you feel after going through this exercise?
Many lead our teams through changes, though we rarely take the time to understand our emotions and feelings related to the change. So, we often adapt to a change instead of fully supporting it.
Everyone has emotions, and they have a significant impact on our work. The feelings wheel can help us identify our emotions related to a change and take action that will help us embrace it. This leads to improved self-awareness, a better understanding of our peers, and the ability to communicate more clearly. In turn, this results in better teamwork, productivity, and positivity.
This exercise may feel uncomfortable, mainly if you learned to suppress your emotions like me. My suggestion: Start and explore it a bit more as you get more comfortable.
The feelings wheel has three circles. Our emotions are in the center of the wheel, and our feelings are in the middle and outer parts.
- I usually start with the outer circle to understand the specific feelings I notice and then work my way to the center to identify the related emotions.
- You can also start from the inside out by trying to identify your emotions and then exploring the specific feelings.
- Either way, taking time to do this will help you determine what expectations or needs are related to your feelings.
Once you identify the feelings and needs, focus on what you can do to meet your need. This may help you pinpoint specific actions you can take. You can also think through what will change your feelings once you take those actions.
This exercise will also help you understand what help you need from others on your team. Sometimes, this also helps clarify requests for those, like me, who don't like to ask for help.
Here's a list of the questions that will help you:
✔️ What emotions do you notice?
✔️ What feelings are associated with these emotions?
✔️ What thoughts do you have about the situation (change)?
✔️ What could help you improve your emotions and feelings?
✔️ What can you do to improve your emotions and feelings?
✔️ What do you want your team (and leaders) to know?
✔️ How do you feel after going through this exercise?
I share two examples below.
- The first is based on a conversation with a Sales Leader whose company is implementing a cloud-based CRM platform.
- The second is based on a "friend" who leads a consulting firm focused on organizational change.
Note: Any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental. 😉
Example 1 – Sales Leader
I spoke with a Sales Leader whose company is implementing Salesforce.com. He is not convinced that this is a good change, though he is expected to lead his nine-member sales team through the change. He agreed to talk about the change.
Note: I first talked him through one example to show him how the process worked and tried to keep the conversation focused on the CRM implementation and what he needed to do to lead his team effectively.
- What emotions do you notice? I feel primarily fearful about what is changing.
- What feelings are associated with these emotions? I feel anxious and scared, specifically worried about what we need to do differently and frightened about possible impacts on my team.
- What thoughts do you have about the situation (change)? I am concerned about the impact on our current sales process and how the project team will handle the transition. We could have a better track record with projects like these. I also worry that this may lead to job changes. Lastly, how our metrics might change, impacting our pay.
- What could help you improve your emotions and feelings? I want my perspective to be heard and valued. I also need more details to understand the change and its impacts on my team.
- What can you do to improve your emotions and feelings? I plan to meet with my Sales VP to share my concerns and see if she has additional information. I also can share what I am doing with my team so they know I am taking care of them.
- What do you want your team (and leaders) to know? I want my team to know I am doing what I can to take care of them and to maintain the trust I've established as their sales leader. I want my Sales VP and fellow Sales Leaders to listen to my concerns and share more information when they have it. Several of my peers will agree that we need transparency about the impact of the change, whether positive or negative.
- How do you feel after going through this exercise? I've been able to think about and pinpoint my concerns. This will help me communicate more effectively with my team and Sales VP. I still have my concerns, but I'll have a bit of control to address my concerns in a way that helps my team and the company.
Example 2 – Consulting Leader
Our friend, let's call him Manuel, has a lot on his plate and sometimes has trouble managing his emotions. He recently printed the seven questions below and answered them after his afternoon walk.
- What emotions do you notice? Looking at the feelings wheel, I notice bad and fearful emotions.
- What feelings are associated with these emotions? I feel anxious and busy –specifically, overwhelmed, worried, pressured, and rushed.
- What thoughts do you have about the situation (change)? My immediate thought is to "…work harder and do more," and "I need to keep up."
- What could help you improve your emotions and feelings? I need to prioritize my tasks and manage my workload better. I should share my feelings with my team members, but it feels uncomfortable to do so.
- What can you do to improve your emotions and feelings? I can prioritize by focusing today on the top three things that will help our firm. I also need to delegate more tasks to my team. Lastly, I need to take of myself and keep my afternoon walk (or tennis drills). Spending time with my wife, kids, dogs, and friends also helps lower my stress levels.
- What do you want your team (and leaders) to know? I want my team members to understand that I am feeling overwhelmed. I know they will support me in managing my workload (I need to ask). I am also hoping they will share their own needs and concerns.
- How do you feel after going through this exercise? This exercise gives me a better understanding of my emotions and concerns. It also helps me clarify the help I need to communicate more effectively with my team. I will still feel overwhelmed and rushed, but I have better control and am confident I'll find solutions to balance my workload.
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