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“I so tired,” my 5-year-old goddaughter declared from under her cute red curls and Mickey Mouse ears.

Standing in the middle of Disney World, her mum and I looked at each other and both replied “same, girl, same.”

That exclamation has become our texting code for words that can’t be spoken but are deeply understood between us — if we write “I so tired,” it’s a shortcut to fill in for that really tired, ridiculously-tired, tired-in-your-bones tired, like you-can’t-even-make-a-decision tired feeling.

Sound familiar?

In a coaching conversation this week with one of my most successful female executives who works in a very cool luxury brand, we were chatting about how she’s still getting incredible results and making an impact on the business — despite how tired she is, and her team is tired, her boss is tired, their stakeholders are tired! It feels like the whole world is tired and needs a vacation!

And despite how tired we all are as people leaders, business owners, and executives, we are still expected to make decisions, deliver business results, lead our people, and move projects forward.

We are trying to engage teams in remote and hybrid workplaces, determine what return to the office looks like, trying to build relationships and new connections online, jugging aging parents, keep friendships alive, sending kids to college, navigating a pandemic, and planning long-overdue vacations — and on top of all that, let’s not forget, do our day jobs.

My client asked me if I could speak to her leadership team about managing and focusing through change, here’s a summary of our conversation:

Even though we are tired, we still need to lead through the change and pay attention to WHO and WHAT matters, we can:

  1. Anticipate the change
  2. Navigate through the change
  3. Advocate during the change

How do we anticipate the change? 

Paying attention to how we respond to change is a start. Me? I love change. I grew up in a house where we’d come home from school and mum had rearranged all the furniture. Why? She just felt like it!

We moved a lot as kids, new schools, new friends, and new teachers. And, as a result, I had to get good at anticipating change, how to quickly make friends, how to avoid bullies, and what the teachers might want and need.

Knowing our own style and then adapting as leaders for those who we serve is vital. Understanding not everyone responds to change the same way as you — some love it, create and embrace it; others hate it, avoid it and resist it. Resistance can show up in ways like procrastination, frustration, gossip, misinformation, and negativity. If we add in the general weariness we’re all experiencing it makes it all the more challenging.

So what are we to do? Explain the why.

I believe “people will do the WHAT if they understand the WHY.” If we share WHY changes are necessary it helps people understand how it impacts them and then we show them how to navigate it.

How do we navigate through the change? 
One of the most important aspects of navigating change is paying attention to how you communicate. Many leaders are afraid of over-communicating, but I’d argue that the risk of that is actually minimal. I challenge leaders to create clear, concise messages delivered in multiple ways (written, verbal, team meetings, 1:1s and even FAQ documents).

So many employee engagement surveys we read (regardless of the global brand) say some version of “no one tells me anything,” or “my leaders don’t communicate with me,” —  it shows up everywhere. We can help others focus on their work and navigate by showing them the path.

If we don’t communicate clearly and consistently during change, people will make up what they don’t know. The sooner you communicate your strategic vision and how it impacts those around you, the quicker you get buy-in — and the easier it is for people to determine how the change impacts them and what is their best course of action.

How do we advocate during the change? 
During times of change, we often neglect to invest in relationships because we are “too busy” or “too tired.” Yet investing in our relationships is even more important during times of change. Prioritizing your network and relationships is worth it. We write about building advocates and having an advocate system in our book, Attention Pays.

One day you might need your network for support, a new opportunity, or a referral or recommendation. Schedule time to reach out to your advocates and update them on what you are up to and continue to build those relationships. Make this a priority to advocate for yourself.

And even though you are ‘so tired’ don’t forget to extend grace to yourself and your team.

So wherever you find yourself today in the change journey, consider investing the time to schedule a strategic appointment with yourself. 

Maybe it looks like this. Change your environment, turn off your devices, grab a notebook and pen (yes, real pen and paper!) and:

  • Make a list of everyone in your team, your network, and people who are important to you that you want to focus on
  • Reach out to your advocates and remind them you are thinking of them
  • Connect with your team and schedule one-on-ones to discuss how you can support them during change
  • Ask yourself some questions:
    • How do I anticipate change?
    • How do I help others navigate during the change?
    • How do I continue to build my advocates?
    • How do I advocate for others?

Now go get some rest…. we all need it. And if you haven’t booked a vacation this year, do it! Take your scheduled leave, go offline, recharge your batteries. The world needs the best version of you, go reenergize yourself, and we will be here when you get back!

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