Podcast: Craig Springer on Thriving in the Midst of Change

With a new year, leaders around the globe have set new goals for themselves, their teams, their organizations and their communities. Sometimes, new goals require drastic changes. How do we leaders implement change without causing panic or confusion among our followers?

In this episode of The Leadercast Podcast, we chatted with Craig Springer, executive director at Alpha USA and speaker at Leadercast Live 2019—happening live on May 10 at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth, Georgia, or at a broadcast location near you—about change management and how to provide effective leadership to help followers thrive in the midst of change. He shares his insights about how to thrive—and what to avoid—during times of change.

What NOT to Do

Don’t focus on the externals, says Craig. “I made a major mistake when I was leading a change process a couple of years ago,” he admits. “I rushed to change the wrong things first.”

When he mapped out plans that would help Alpha improve in reaching new clients and increasing funding, he went to change the visible outputs first: products, services and finances.

But that almost crushed them, he says. Instead, he should have focused more on the people around him. “I overlooked the most important input because it's not as visible,” he says, “It’s not the what and the how, it’s the who. It’s the people.”

People are the greatest investment that any organization makes.

Every decision, strategy, process and client interaction, it's all shaped by the people of an organization and how they function together. It’s all about culture, says Craig. “We absolutely need an objective measure of cultural health as part of any change management process.”

What You SHOULD Do

Focus on the internals; focus on culture. “When our key outputs are less than par, it's a direct consequence of the culture that we have or haven't built,” he says. 

If you want your results to improve, you need to invest in a culture upgrade. “I had to rewind and focus first on the people, then on the process,” says Craig.

He describes an organization’s culture like a rope. With just one or two strands, it wouldn’t be able to bear up under the tension of change. It takes a thickly twisted rope to bear a heavy weight.

So, how should leaders manage change among their teams?

1. Evaluate your culture. You have to take stock of where your culture is before you can strengthen it. “If culture is going to make or break our ability to effectively change, then we have to understand and evaluate how our culture is doing,” he says.

2. Set staff operating values. Craig found that Alpha benefited from a clearly defined set of cultural values. The organization had a set of organizational values already, but he implemented staff operating values to transcend every type of change or circumstance they would face. “How we do our work matters,” Craig says. “When we face a change hill, we know how we're going to charge it together already because we've already written it out.

3. Listen well. “We've got to create time and space for listening,” he says. When a leader truly listens, it sends the message that the team member is important and valued. When people aren't being heard, they believe they aren’t respected, and that, in turn, has a negative effect on change. “If people feel disrespected, they're going to become demotivated, the whole team is going to lose ground, and we won't be able to change effectively,” says Craig. “It doesn't really matter what our workplace looks like. Respect should be at the core of it.”

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This post is based on an episode of The Leadercast Podcast with Craig Springer, executive director at Alpha USA. Register to join Craig at Leadercast Live 2019 on May 10 at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth, Georgia, or at a broadcast location near you. To hear this episode, and many more like it, subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher.

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