Mickey Edwards, a former U.S. congressman, recently wrote in The Washington Post that leaders who change direction must keep everyone focused on what matters most. But they also need to do some explaining so people understand the necessity for change.
Edwards advises leaders to cite one of two reasons for changing direction. They can either point to the discovery of new information that influences their thinking. Or they can describe a change in the status quo that merits a comprehensive review of the previous strategy.
If you stumble upon new information, it’s important to emphasize that had it been known, you would have made a different decision from the outset. Admitting this actually strengthens your credibility and openness as a leader.
This strategy also implicitly sends a message that you want people to level with you. If they have information that they think pertains to the challenges that your organization faces, then they may realize it’s incumbent upon them to notify you promptly.
If you detect a change in current conditions that triggers a reevaluation of an earlier decision, then people will appreciate your decisive decision to go in another direction. Just make sure to stick to your initial vision.
Weak leaders undermine their stature by uprooting their “goals and values,” Edwards writes. They’re not just switching gears based of changes on the ground; they’re reassessing the core mission that they articulated so clearly just weeks or months before.
Finally, reserve ample time for dialogue. Welcome questions and give honest replies. When employees feel they’ve had a chance to vent and clarify ambiguities, then they’re more apt to let you lead them through change.