Are you responsible for leading big changes at the moment? Perhaps changes which are scary and potentially disadvantageous to the people whose jobs might be at risk?
And perhaps you've noticed that it's difficult to get momentum going. People are resistant to the change, they don't seem to grasp the scale of the threat to the organisation, nobody wants to face just how much needs to be done in so short a time.
For leaders who have previously implemented big changes by virtue of their drive, organising skills and can-do attitude, this kind of situation can blindside them. The old way of doing things by trying even harder and persuading others to do the same just doesn't seem to work anymore.
In a way, trying to lead this kind of change is a lot like driving on ice. The rules of how you manage the car have changed. The wheels are spinning, you might be revving the engine, but you're either going sideways or going nowhere. By itself, just trying harder is no longer going to get it done.
Here's some tips from the BBC website about how to drive on snow and ice, in italics, with my leadership comments below:
- If your tyres are making virtually no noise this could be a sign you're driving on ice
If the feedback you're getting from people about their progress goes quiet, you've hit a slippery patch;
- If your vehicle skids, depress the clutch and turn the steering wheel into the direction of the skid. When the vehicle straightens steer along the road
When it suddenly becomes difficult to make progress, you need to turn your attention to that, not stay blindly focussed on your objectives. Switch back only when you have traction;
- If your vehicle skids, don't brake - it will just lock up your wheels and you'll skid further
If it suddenly seems difficult to make progress at work, don't be tempted to call a halt to everything in order to fix it, just give it your attention - see above;
- Gentle manoeuvres are the key to safe driving.
...and to leading people who are worried about their jobs;
- Reduce your risk of skidding by reducing your speed, too much power is often the source of problems in snow and ice
Perhaps the single most important point. If you're trying to lead change and it isn't happening, take your foot off the gas a little until the wheels can bite. DO NOT try even harder. When it looks like things are moving again, gently apply the power;
- Try to maintain a constant speed, choosing the most suitable gear in advance to avoid having to change down while climbing a hill
OK, you've got this analogy by now, right?
- If you do get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels. Put a sack or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip
If the momentum for change has gone, re-affirm the vision. Know which part of the organisation the driving force comes from and therefore which part needs to make contact with the road surface. Clear away stuff that blocks them, and see if you can change the nature of the landscape so they can get a grip.