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A few years ago, I came to the realization that I needed to improve my engagement with team members and colleagues. One of the things I decided to change was to push myself deeper into the details of the multitude of ongoing projects. I realized there was so much going on that I was having trouble providing enough attention to the details involved in each project. I was only brought in and sought after if there was a problem or a tough decision needed to be made.
As this little epiphany came into light, I realized that this was not good for me or my team members. So, I set about making it one of my priorities to work on from that point forward (in the name of my own continuous improvement).
However, it also occurred to me at the same time that a change of my level of attention could cause the organization to take a step back and feel a little nervous about what I was doing and why I was doing it. As I pondered this notion, I decided to seek out some advice. I reached out to one of my mentors and explained to him the dilemma that I was facing and asked for his counsel in how I should proceed.
His first question was, “How do you think your people will feel about this change?” As I explained that I thought they might feel a little unnerved or concerned about why I was changing this approach, he nodded in understanding. He asked me a few more questions, and we briefly discussed the problem. Then he said, “Beau, how would you feel if your boss changed his behavior like this?” I explained that I think I would feel much like my people are going to feel about it. He agreed, and then asked me what would make me feel better about it?
The light bulb that went off in my head was blinding. I needed to communicate to my team members what I was going to do, what it meant and why I was going to do it. The answer was there, but I just didn’t see it right away.
So, I prepared myself for a team meeting to share with them my plans, my reasoning and what it meant for them. The meeting went great, the people were receptive and they were then eager to share with me the details I was seeking. As this change progressed, I became better at coaching, and the open and honest dialogue helped them feel at ease, maybe even a little excited about it. It went better than I had expected.
My learning from this process was two-fold. First, it really helped to talk with someone about the problem I was facing in order to seek input and advice. If you have someone to turn to whom you respect, seek him or her out to compare notes and do it frequently.
Next, if you are changing the way you do something, explain it before you change it. The open dialogue will get your colleagues on your side and allow them to help you make a successful transition.