Notion’s 2022 Change Report, which examined the impact of workplace change, revealed that executives in the C-suite are dangerously disconnected from other levels of the organization when it comes to their attitudes toward change and their perceptions about what’s best for the people in their organizations.
Not only is the difference striking, but it can negatively impact the outcomes of change efforts.
Executives who fail to see the perspectives of their managers and front-line employees and show empathy for their experiences will undermine their change efforts and face challenges such as greater attrition and financial setbacks.
The good news is that leaders can learn how to take off those rose-colored glasses, get a better look inside their organization, and lead successful change.
Who’s wearing rose-colored glasses?
People who lead with pure optimism, sometimes blindly, can fail to see the reality of what their people are experiencing. These “rose-colored” leaders stand behind glass walls and perhaps hear only what they want to hear.
Glass-half-full optimism may be what puts an individual on the leadership track – it’s clearly a positive personality trait and good for the company too. People who champion change and see the long-term good are critically important to successful change. But it’s critical for leaders to see, understand, and empathize with the different ways change can impact people at all levels. It can be disruptive, uncomfortable, and sometimes anxiety ridden.
Watch for these signs of rose-colored leadership
- Thinking change is easy and employees should quit complaining
- Not asking for feedback from all levels of their organization before, during, and after a change
- Being unclear on the full picture of how changes have impacted stakeholder groups
- Not receiving feedback as being an empathetic, authentic, or engaged leader on your own 360 performance reviews
Tips for a crystal-clear view of the realities of change
- Understand all the details and impacts of the change; plan ahead with a comprehensive change and communications plan that lays out all of the impacts and how you will reach different levels of the organization
- Be prepared to address resistance or skepticism; recognize and validate the experiences of employees facing impacts to their roles or day-to-day work
- Balance optimism with realism; it’s necessary to focus on the future and be hopeful, but also demonstrate your understanding of the challenges with empathy
- Ask for feedback – and pay attention to it; for example, distribute anonymous pulse surveys
- Overcommunicate, be visible, and check in with different managers across functions; the more you are seen engaging, the more people will respect your leadership
Wearing rose-colored glasses might help leaders feel good about change, but won’t get them very far. Leaders who fail to see the full picture, listen to diverse perspectives, and validate the ones doing the hard change work, will soon find themselves without a following. It will be more difficult to make change stick, people may disengage, and top performers could leave for someplace where they feel seen. Clearly.
To learn about developing executives or leaders at your organization, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.