Ask Amy — Practical Advice for Supervisors: How Can I Communicate a Change in Direction to My Team?

A Message from Amy Bosley, Vice President, Organizational Development and Human Resources

Wouldn’t it be great if everything went according to plan? If we could start down a well-thought-out path knowing that we’d reach the pre-determined destination on time, on budget and with the team engaged and energetic? If we could predict with accuracy of the work that our teams will need to do in the coming years? It would be great … and it’s totally unrealistic.

I’m deeply engaged with our Organizational Development and Human Resources team in a strategic planning process to help set our direction for the next three years. This isn’t our first run at this work. We’ve endured some unsuccessful attempts at trying to plan as a group, I’ve struggled as a leader to convey a vision that is compelling and clear enough to be translated into action steps, and the College has changed right underneath our feet. I feel woefully inadequate as a leader when I have led a team down a path that turns out to be a dead end or worse, a cliff. And it is my responsibility to turn things around before we get to that edge. And it’s tough to disappoint people.

It’s natural for us to expect our leaders to have it all figured out and to lead us to established, rational and reasoned outcomes. What we often forget is that we are all human, figuring things out as we go, and that leaders make mistakes, circumstances change and we have to adapt.

So when you’ve led your team to a no-U-turn, no outlet, dead end … or some significant disruption occurs in your work, or you’ve simply changed your mind, communicating that change in direction to your team is something about which you should be thoughtful and consider the implications of your message.

I’ve found in every aspect of my work that honesty and transparency are two critical commitments that make leadership and relationships stronger. When I need to change course, I’ve found it most helpful to explain directly and honestly the factors that have impacted the decision, to own the elements of the change over which I’ve had agency and to describe in as clear detail as possible of “what’s next.” This approach doesn’t mean that people won’t be frustrated by a change or disappointed about not achieving the original plan, but we all experience a desire to understand “why” something is happening … or not … and leaders are more successful when they can create and convey context.

There isn’t a playbook, rule book or script to leadership. We’ll all make mistakes as leaders, things won’t pan out the way we planned, and we’ll need to adjust the sails to get to the destination we seek. Helping our teams understand why a change is needed helps build trust, strengthen connection to the work and develop agility to be responsive in future changes. When the time comes to change course (and it will …), I encourage you to be open, engaging and transparent with your colleagues.

Ask Amy” is designed to provide supervisors with guidance to successfully navigate opportunities and challenges in your daily work, as you create a culture for employee success within your teams. Each month, I, along with featured guest contributors, will address a question and offer practical solutions from which all supervisors can benefit.

If you would like to ask a question, simply email me with “Ask Amy” in the subject line. Submissions will be included anonymously in the Supervisor Segment and The Grove, and will be addressed monthly as they are received.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Posts

    Ask Amy — Practical Advice for Supervisors: How Can I...

    Thursday, April 16, 2020  A Message from Amy Bosley, Vice President, Organizational Development and Human Resources As the urgency of responding to the pandemic begins to fade into a sense of a “new normal, not normal,” you might find yourself beginning to think about what else you need to do and think about for your department and […]

    Ask Amy — Practical Advice for Supervisors: How Do I...

    A Message from Amy Bosley, Vice President, Organizational Development and Human Resources It’s no secret that Valencia College is in the midst of organizational change, so I felt that it was important to address this question in a three-part series. If you missed my last columns on this topic, click here to view my February response or here for […]