by Lt. Col. Mike Honma
314th Airlift Wing chief of safety
When it comes to long-term success, the only constant thing in life is change. Whether it’s organizational or personal, continuous improvement is a paradigm shift that doesn’t come easily to some people. In fact, our natural tendency is to resist change due to a fear of the unknown. Therefore, it’s incumbent on leaders at every level to proactively foster change and ensure future success of the mission, the unit and its members.
Changes in our work environment come in many forms. New technology (electronic performance report managing system), organizational structure (transition from host to tenant wing), and overall priorities and standards (new physical fitness program) can induce fear and discomfort in the workforce while manifesting apprehension and potential poor performance if not handled correctly. As leaders, there are things we can do to overcome such adversity when it impacts our people’s comfort zone.
First of all, a leader’s positive mindset is crucial to facilitating trust. Having a clear vision, infectious optimism, and honest emotional awareness of concerns resonates with a team. All of us desire to be motivated and inspired. If subordinates look at changes as new experiences instead of trials, they are more likely to take advantage of those change’s positive elements. A leader’s enthusiasm to grow and improve can encourage others around them to get better.
Secondly, leaders must communicate effectively. Experts say the lack of communication is the major stumbling block when it comes to implementing change in an organization. People are fearful of what they don’t understand, and hence their natural reaction is to resist. Regularly share updated information, explain how strategy meets goals and objectives, encourage questions, promote two-way feedback, and effectively listen. Helping personnel understand why the change is being made, their role in the change, and how their inputs matter, enables skeptics to move from feelings of resist, to accept, and then to embrace.
Finally, effective leaders are not only the mechanism for change, but the catalyst as well. People are more inclined to stick to old habits unless they see something different in their leaders. Positive influence exudes from those that initiate change from within. Leading by example, supervisors who personally explore new possibilities and clarity in their lives (completing an advanced academic degree or actively volunteering in the community) can positively inspire unit members to embrace improvement possibilities in theirs.
Change is good and vital for the health of a unit. All members must effectively embrace change to foster cultural transformation and realize their full potential. Successful people view change as a challenge and opportunity for something better and so should you and those you lead.