Change: Make it your Friend, not your foe

Posted March 21, 2017 in Leadership, Resilience

Turbulence is all around us.  While much of it is out of our control, it does have a significant impact on us, our work and our teams. How can we keep ourselves, and those around us, positive and optimistic at times like this? This month, we sat down with Roundtable Members Eleanor Elliott and Marc Guay to get their insights.

MM Marc Guay for WEB icon-01Marc Guay, Past President of PepsiCo Foods Canada, highlighted two different forms of change – “controllable change” driven by internal forces  (mergers, acquisitions etc) and “uncontrollable change” driven by external forces (technology, political unrest, customer or supplier decision). He pointed out that being adept at leading “controllable change” helps to prepare teams and organizations to handle more unpredictable, complex and frightening change driven by external forces. To build strength in handling “controllable change”, Marc shared these opportunities:

Leverage resources to help execute planned change smoothly and effectively and to train leaders on valuable skills to create a culture that embraces change.

Create change when there is none.  Make change your friend in the name of always “finding a better way to do things”, throwing out the old saying “If ain’t broken, don’t fix it!”

When it comes to “uncontrollable change”, Marc noted that while in most cases there is very little we, as leaders, can do to prevent it, in some cases these changes can be predicted. He reminds us that one of the many responsibilities of a leader is to look around the corner, see what’s coming and prepare the organization for it.  This is an opportunity to bring a degree of control to those changes that might otherwise be seen as uncontrollable.  His suggestions in this regard:

 Pay attention to trends. Create processes that allow you to look outside of your day-to-day affairs.

 Engage others in planning and developing strategies. Engage your people in the business of developing strategies for defending revenue streams or market share against any threats, and also to turn these changes into advantages to stay ahead of the competition. This not only leads to a better plan, but also ensures broad engagement and ownership, both of which are critical in having an optimistic outlook for the future.


Eleanor EllioMM Eleanor Elliott for WEB icon-01tt, Director of Digital Capabilities at Harlequin, highlighted the need to, first and foremost, get very comfortable with uncertainty ourselves as leaders.  She sees this as integral to inspiring a team’s confidence in leading them through times of uncertainty.  She also talked about the importance of being authentic and supportive as a critical aspect of inspiring the trust of a team. She shared these tips:

Acknowledge the uncertainty. Pretending that everything is hunky-dory will only make you look naive and will undermine your authority as a leader. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”! It is better to admit that you don’t know exactly what’s coming, than to bluster your way through, only to be proven wrong down the road.

Encourage your team to focus on what is in their control. Every member of every team in every organization has some control over their work. And every team member can control the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of their work. By focusing on what is within their control, they will spend less time worrying about what isn’t.

Develop individual pride. Encourage team members to develop a sense of pride for their individual accomplishments. She shares: “I do this in my weekly team status meeting. After team members share their highest priorities for the week ahead, they must also share something they are proud of from the previous week. Feeling proud of your individual contribution fosters a sense of meaning in your work and sharing these ‘moments of pride’ in a team meeting also encourages a sense of team pride – that we’re all in this together, doing our best. It’s a lot easier to weather a storm if you feel like you’re surrounded by a great team.”

Change is never easy, whether it is controllable or not. Uncertainly is all around us. Looking for opportunities to build optimism and thrive around change is a choice that we can all make as leaders.  Marc Guay put it this way… ”If you don’t like change, you’ll like being irrelevant even less!”

Happy leading!

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