Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

Disruption compels the consideration of change. Once it’s gained our attention, determining how best to navigate through change requires personal, respectful dialogue. Safely sharing and discussing differing perspectives enables new ideas to emerge, tensions to be relieved and a preferred outcome to be determined. 

Leadership is all about dialogue, contact and connecting, building relationships – with the objective to improve outcomes. Few leadership obligations are more vital. Securing the shared commitment and accountability by affected stakeholders to achieve an agreed change result is not possible without these discussions. And leaders who have experienced these critical moments appreciate the necessity of sustaining the change dialogue to identify the endpoint, to specify the actions required to reach it, and to guide the implementation of these actions until the objective is achieved. They rely on two skills to continue these essential conversations. 

First, they maintain the dialogue. Leaders are constantly assessing the flow of the discussion to determine if it’s progressing, or sliding towards silence or excessive emotion. If dialogue is fading, then recovering momentum begins by raising awareness that progress has stalled. To accomplish this, they challenge the participants, using comments like: “We’ve moved away from dialogue; let’s get back to it.” Refocusing attention on the key points under discussion is the next step. But if conversation continues to be inhibited, then the second skill is employed. 

Next, recover the safe space. Stalled dialogue is most often due to a sense of threat, which must be removed to reignite the conversation.  Expressions of empathy, vulnerability and tolerance often help everyone recover a comfort level, a sense of safe space, which enables them to share again. Typical comments are: “I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel like I’m agreeing with their ideas over yours,” or “Can you help me understand why your position is important to you and what you need from us to help.” Once safety is restored, open dialogue usually returns. 

These two skills are simple to remember and form the core tools for sustaining dialogue to manage differences and resolve change issues.

How engaged are you in helping your team understand 
change and act to address it?