No one could have expected THIS.
I hear you, we’re changing direction fast too. We’re all on a super-fast pivot right now.
It’s even more tricky if you’ve laid a strong stake in the ground with certain absolutes.
- “Quality is our biggest priority. We don’t launch a new product until it’s undergone six months of field testing.”
- “We’re a 4-star restaurant, we don’t do delivery. That would cheapen the brand. People come here for the experience.”
- “We never start a new hire until the CEO is available to meet with them in person and shake their hand.”
- “Never submit a proposal until you’ve met with all the stakeholders and fully vetted the plan.”
- “The security issues are too great to let people work from home.”
- “We always meet the client on-site when we’re making important decisions.”
- “We’ll weather this storm together. We won’t do layoffs.”
Circumstances changed. And now you’re looking to do the best you can, with what you have with where you are.
You have new information, but certainly not enough. Everything is still changing. You need to change your mind—even to consider places you never thought you would go. And the truth is, you might have to change your mind again.
How to Change Your Mind Without Losing Momentum
So how do you change your mind without losing momentum?
1. Get comfortable with the pivot yourself.
Start with yourself. Get clear on why you’ve changed your mind and give yourself permission to be okay with that. Great leaders know how and when to pivot. Your team will take their cues from you on how confident to feel about this new direction. If you were wrong (even if these circumstances had not changed), that’s okay. Be ready to admit that. Everyone is disoriented right now. Stay grounded in what you’re doing and why.
2. Communicate with transparency.
Be as transparent as possible. We were working with one senior leader who shared, “I know this is exactly the opposite of what I said two weeks ago. And here’s what I know now, and why I’ve changed my mind.” That simple statement was exactly what everyone needed to hear. We’ve seen other leaders who pivot without sharing all the reasons, and their team ends up confused, frustrated and demoralized.
3. Uncover fears and unspoken concerns.
Change is hard enough, but now you’re asking people to change on top of a mountain of stress they’re already coping with. Give people an opportunity to talk about their fears and concerns with this new change and direction. Don’t underestimate the need for some good venting. Take a minute. Address concerns. When we’re doing our Courageous Cultures research, one British manager told us, “sometimes what people need is to just have a good moan.”
4. Say “thank you.”
Thank them for their commitment and support. Acknowledge their past effort, and explain why it’s not wasted—even if all that was accomplished is the learning. Thank them for perseverance, and for taking care of one another.
5. Communicate consistency.
Remind them of what hasn’t changed. Your mission, core values, the need for teamwork. People need to know what’s sacred and staying. You haven’t changed your mind about everything.
6. Create clarity.
Describe the new direction as well as you can. Be very clear on the next steps and what you need each person to do, and check for understanding. You don’t need to know all the answers, but share what you know, and make it easy for your team to know what to do next.
When you have to change your mind, it’s easy to feel like you’re going backward. It’s okay to feel disappointed that you had to change your mind. But don’t forget to give yourself credit that you’re doing the best you can with what you have from where you are.
Thank you for leading your team toward a brighter, bolder future.
What advice do you have for leaders who need to reverse direction or change their minds?