Questions for Times of Change

Recently, I worked with a CEO and his immediate team in a very fast environment. We spent time processing thoughts and feelings the whole enterprise was experiencing during current major changes.

This is a relatively small business, and the group I worked with comprised of 80% of the company. So, we had a very good representation of the the thoughts and feelings within the whole company. Because of this, we were able to spend some time generating answers to my favorite questions to ask during, or in anticipation of, change:

  • What are you afraid you will lose?
  • What are you excited you might gain?
  • What is sacred around here?
  • What questions do you really, truly need answers to right now?

These four questions, when asked and discussed in the above order, generate a lot of information for leadership.

“You can learn a lot about an organization from the reaction of top leadership to the front line’s answers.”

In this specific case, the CEO followed up with his immediate leadership team using the questions below:

  • What have you learned as you’ve talked more to your team?
  • What kinds of things do you think people are worried about that they shouldn’t be? What’s our plan for reassuring them? Have you already done anything to reassure them?
  • When people shared things they were afraid to lose, what surprised you?
  • If our perceptions of the way things are is way off from the perceptions of the people who have been here for a year, what do you think caused the discrepancy? I think that makes people less engaged and trusting, so I’m concerned about it. Are you?
  • Sometimes I think you all are a little annoyed that I’m spending time thinking and talking about these things. Am I reading you right? What do you think I’m missing?

You might not ask all of these. Therefore, use your instincts to pick one or two and see where they lead. Keep in mind that the discussion will be much better when your immediate leadership team is fully vulnerable, open, and trusting with each other and you. If, however, your team struggles in these areas, spending time on these issues will help emphasize the need for openness and trust.

What do you think?

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