Those of us in business (as well as just about everyone these days) are living in confusing times. Learning how to run our businesses and stay afloat, how to remain connected with staff and clients in a way that maintains relationships and endurance, how to work from home and still manage child care and at-home schooling, have no modern precedent. And I’m not convinced the confusion will end any time soon.
Whatever our new normal will end up being will most likely look nothing like the world we’ve become accustomed to. The systems from which we’ve made decisions for decades – the factors we’d made projections and budgets against, the expertise or industry recognition we were adjusted to, the skills we used to communicate, lead, and sell – will have far less value. And we don’t yet know what will take their place.
WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
Not only do we not know what our future will look like, we don’t even know how to think about it – there’s no ‘There, There’ yet. Our foundations have shifted; new norms don’t yet exist; old ones will fail us because they no longer fit.
With no way of knowing where we’re going or what our new status quo will look like, there’s no way of knowing what skills we’ll need later. Certainly there is no route to success using past norms. Everything has changed. Where folks work from, the jobs that need doing, the client needs and problems, budget and staffing issues…
As first next steps, companies will most likely attempt to work from the ‘old normal’ differently. But after trying and failing they’ll recognize the need for new norms. That’s already becoming obvious as new, creative concepts are making successful debuts in technology, the arts, education, and customer care, to fill gaps where none existed before.
While I personally assume the new norms will drift to the side of integrity, authenticity, respect, values, trust, and fairness, none of us really have any way of knowing. But think about it for a moment: without any conventional norms in place, the only way to assess decisions going forward will be from our guts – usually good indicators of integrity. But the one constant is change.
I contend that the companies who will flourish going forward are those with the skills to successfully facilitate change. Unfortunately, we can’t work from the same standards we used to work from ‘before’. How, then, do we create new standards?
There are many new issues to account for now: the personal for our staff (Do I want to return full time to my office? How can I incorporate time with my children into my workload?) and the professional for our clients and business (What if our clients don’t return? Will I need new marketing strategies? New forms of revenue to match the new temperament? How can I establish trust now?).
All of us must ask ourselves new questions: what must I consider to end up both successful and positioned for a future I can’t yet imagine? What might need to change? Business structure, staffing, organization, management structure, client outreach, branding/marketing/sales efforts, etc. all must go under the microscope.
The problem is we don’t know how to even think about these real issues. Current leadership models work from conventional biases and assumptions; current questioning models work from the curiosity of the leader in relation to existing norms; current sales models work by assuming they’ll find enough folks with ‘need’ to place their solutions – yet those with ‘need’ can’t make decisions now. New thinking must replace most of our long-held assumptions.
The overarching question we face is this: without the myths we’ve worked from, the norms we’ve operated from, the assumptions we’ve made to hire, fire, brand, sell, and organize around, what measures do we now use to compare ourselves against, or truths to think from?
Lots of decisions to make. There are no answers now, only questions. Whatever norms we will develop will become new norms going forward. But not yet. The only measurement we have going forward is our values.
To help address all this change, to help us work toward a future we cannot know, to operate from a blank slate that will inspire new thinking without carrying over the concepts we’ve worked from until now, I believe that Change Facilitation is an essential skill set.
There are just too many issues that represent unknowns to use any of the conventional thinking that has guided us before now: Buyers can’t buy until potentially new stakeholders determine if maintaining their status quo is their best option during their own confusing, risky circumstances; managers have increased responsibility to lead teams possibly working from different locations and time schedules, maybe while home-schooling children simultaneously; priorities of Boards and top leadership teams are not resolved yet, but need to be.
CHANGE IS SYSTEMIC
The issue at hand is how to manage change. Let’s use as the foundational reality that all change must be systemic. Changing one new behavior, one new rule at a time is not only senseless but inefficient. We must restructure our systems.
What are the new norms, rules, beliefs, and values that will take us into a new, unknowable future? How do we operationalize these, and who do we include as we design new possibilities?
There are specific elements necessary to accomplish congruent change. I will list them here but note: each component is filled with unknowns; unbiased guidance is needed to facilitate discovery:
With so many issues to manage, a Change Facilitator is needed. But it’s not as simple as using conventional leadership practices. It’s quite urgent now that there be no biases, no assumptions, predicated on past successes. Change Facilitators will need to listen differently than before, ask new questions, and have different goals.
FACILITATION REQUIRES DIFFERENT SKILLS
Current leadership models won’t work now:
We must begin thinking in systems as the fundamental ingredient in any change consideration. No change can happen, no new beliefs or behaviors or decisions or actions, unless the status quo agrees to it.
Real change is the result of reprogramming our physiologic, chemical, automatic, neurological, and unconscious brain wiring. Unless fundamental changes to our beliefs and values, and new rules are developed, our systems are set up to continue doing what they’ve always done. It’s now necessary to enable new choices for new outcomes.
For the past 35 years I’ve been teaching Change Facilitation (named uniquely in each industry I teach in, i.e. Leadership Facilitation, Buying Facilitation®, Training Facilitation, Coaching Facilitation). Since it’s vital to avoid historic judgments to ensure all possibilities are on the table, leaders must approach change with a clean slate and without bias. In other words, leaders won’t have answers, or any assumptions based on past knowledge.
The only way to facilitate change is by enabling systemic change. Here are the topics I teach in my Change Facilitation programs:
Change is a systems problem, not an information problem, or a behavior change problem, or an influencing problem. It’s a problem of developing wholly new norms and values that all decision making flows from, operating without bias to enable all that’s possible, and making sure there’s buy-in and collaboration to create cohesion and follow-through.
Normal skills have grown and developed from long-held assumptions that no longer apply. It’s time for internal coaches and leaders to learn new skills that facilitate new decisions, new thinking, collaboration, and true win-win communication.
Please contact me to help your company, and your leaders, learn the tools to facilitate change. I look forward to teaching leaders the new skills.
Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. Sharon Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharon Drew Morgen July 20th, 2020
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