A few months ago, I wrote a post about the Change Leadership model I use when transforming organizations. The model starts from the core principle that effective change can only be achieved when leaders focus on their teams. By providing them with the communication and support they need through a transition, the team can make magic happen.
While I believe the model’s focus is generally correct, I left out a very important part of the equation. As leaders, we are very much a part of the teams we are leading.
The old adage goes that “there’s no “i” in team.” When it comes to change leadership, however, leaders have to remember that change is happening to us too. It took a cheeseburger to remind me of this simple premise.
Not long ago, I was having a rough day. There was a lot of change going on in my organization, which is something I normally enjoy. For some reason, I was off, and I couldn’t figure out why.
I was in our cafeteria, trying to decide what to get for lunch. It should have been an indication of my stress level that I was having a hard time making such a simple decision. I finally decided on a cheeseburger. Bad idea – I knew it wasn’t the most healthy choice – but I did it anyway.
I sat down at a table, determined to get away from my desk for a few minutes, and found a hockey puck where the hamburger should be. Not literally, but it was charred to the point where I couldn’t eat it. I went back to the grill, and this time got the more health conscious gardenburger. As I watched it being prepared, I was concerned it would be undercooked and I was beside myself, wondering if I’d have to buy 3 lunches that day to get something I’d be willing to eat.
It must have been obvious to everyone around me that something was wrong. One of our checkout ladies is very engaging and talks to many of us when we come through with breakfast or lunch. She could tell something was bothering me, but let it go until the next morning. She insisted that I not be charged for a second meal from the day before and that’s when I realized just how bad off I was.
My distress had nothing to do with the food. It was me, pushed to my limits, being trigged by a silly cheeseburger. It was clear I needed to take a break. Not long after, that’s exactly what I did.
As leaders, our teams key off of us. While it is critically important to give them what they need in the form of communication and support, we have to remember that we are also part of the team and change is happening to us as much as everyone else.
Taking the occasional break, assessing what’s happening and how we’re physically and emotionally responding to our surroundings, is critical for leaders so that we can adjust and get back to the most important part of our jobs. Being the true north our teams need to navigate through the winds of change.