Change is hard. Change is scary. Change is uncertain. Change is chaos. And when something is hard, scary, uncertain and chaotic any human does a cry out - a reach out for help to survive it. It’s often a knee jerk reaction, but a real and fragile reaction all the same.
In that moment - when the fear is high - it’s that moment when it’s most important for the support from leadership to stay calm, and help them take the first step out of the dark.
Let me explain with 2 recent encounters:
1. I was recently working with teams on some high stakes and long term innovation projects - and lots of ideas died in the process. Now, I know as a their Innovation Engineering Black Belt Coach, that this is natural and we’ll just create new ones. But these folks haven’t yet seen the full power of Innovation Engineering. They know in their head that we can start again, but the natural panic of failure sets in when they have to actually kill their idea.
Right after a number of ideas died, they called me for some coaching help. In the first 5 minutes of using Innovation Engineering tools and recent ideas, they had an idea that was way more exciting than the first. Did they need me to run those tools? No. But being there to be with them when the bottom fell out helped them to start again quickly helped them move forward fast...and took all of 10 minutes of my time.
2. A team was innovating a new product that required some specifics from someone in their supply chain, but the answers weren’t available on their website. The team started to put it down as an item to address later, but after hitting another road block they realized that the information was critical for their immediate decisions. They preparing to wait another week to get answers, because “a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy” was the one that usually talks to their supplier. As their coach I said, “My job here is fast and cheap. A week isn’t fast. Let’s call right now.” We picked up the phone, called together, and got answers that changed the course of the entire initiative. But it took me, their Black Belt Coach, dialing the phone for the group to start moving.
Some of these examples certainly seem silly and small, but they’re real all the same. Folks just need that little added boost. It’s that little push and that little added support when it seems like the safety net is gone that can make all the difference.
So as a leader, think about how you can help teams or coworkers do just that first step.
What can you do to start them on the right course?
What scary thing are they about to do this week that you can support them in?
What can you do in just 5 minutes to let them know that we have their back?
It’s always the first time that seems the darkest..and it’s in those darkest moments when just the tiniest bit of light can make all the difference.