Change Management is a role we often place on leaders. We know that too much change impacts performance and saps motivation, so “managing transitions” and “mitigating turbulence” are common phrases relating to this managing change. More often, however, what the organization actually needs is Stability Management.
Leaders must make the work environment predictable and routine, with clear expectations for performance. People perform their best when they have a clear and stable environment in which to function. Here are five things that you can do to create stability in your organization.
Inside the National Building Museum, Washington, D.C. Photo by Pete Fovargue.
Set a schedule
A set schedule makes your work life predictable. Clear expectations go a long way.
- The time and location of meetings
- Deadlines for weekly reports
- The start of the work day and the end of it
I was on the rowing team in college. For four years our winter training schedule was exactly the same:
Monday: 8 x 8 minutes of medium intensity rowing
Tuesday: 8 mile run
Wednesday: 5 x 5 minutes of high intensity rowing
Thursday: 5 mile run day and circuit training
Friday: sprint day
Saturday: rowing technique and lifting
I dreaded going to practice because it was so difficult. We took our training very seriously and competed with each other daily. The athletes that performed well would compete for a seat in the Varsity boat. Those that didn’t consistently perform well would fight for a seat in the JV boat.
Two things got me through the winter training season: mutual suffering with my friends and the predictability of the schedule.
The practice schedule helped me survive. I knew what to expect each day and I would base my decisions around it. Practice affected the meals I ate, when I ate them, the clothes I wore, and when I studied (we had classes too). It is easier to achieve high performance when you can mentally prepare.
Encourage a Routine
A routine is how you complete work based on the structure of a schedule. I use a routine to fill in the empty space and optimize the schedule I am given by my boss.
Elements of a routine include:
- When do you close out distractions to focus?
- When do you answer emails and phone calls?
- When do you work out for the day?
- When and who do you eat lunch with?
A routine eliminates daily decisions. Having to make fewer decisions gives you the energy to focus on the most important ones. Every time a decision is made, it must be communicated throughout the organization. Communication takes time and energy no matter what. Be aware of how much communication is required to solidify the changes you are pushing. Don’t endanger success by bundling too many changes together.
Sometimes you will have to sideline new ideas. If you are the one creating all of the innovative ideas, your team may be struggling to keep up with the changes. There is a limit of perceived change that your team can endure. Be patient and pace yourself, even when the changes are improvements that directly make things better for your team.
Innovative ideas are most likely to happen in a stable environment. When you feel like you are drowning in changing expectations, innovation is the least of your concerns. Stability management requires the leader to take a more passive role. You can only cajole and prod your team toward high performance so much.
Allow Yourself to Be Bored
You need to become comfortable being bored. The successful organizations I have seen had leaders who weren’t central in creating new ideas. They built trust instead, so that lower level leaders were comfortable making decision on their own.
A bored leader is uncomfortable at the beginning because they have earned their position being a hero. A paradigm shift is required in your leadership approach since you are measured by the success of your team. It won’t be easy for you, but it is necessary for the team.
Bored leaders spend more time coaching than directing. It takes time to develop enough trust to achieve organizational stability. You can accelerate the process by observing more and directing less.
Leave Decisions to your Team
There is a balance of creating structure and giving freedom. Focus on the most important 30% of decisions. Let your team decide the remaining 70%. Individuals who have control over their decisions will have greater ownership. Greater ownership makes you feel like you have control.
Change can give the impression that the team has failed. Change wouldn’t be necessary unless there was a compelling reason to change. Without a failure, change may not be on everyone’s mind. If you don’t have a burning platform, it will be hard to inspire your audience.
Give your team the best shot of achieving big goals by weaving stability into the work environment. When the organization is stable, the team will use their extra time to create value.