With new technologies reshaping our lives almost daily, organisations and governments alike are having to learn to deal with rapid change across many areas simultaneously. Some are handling this well and others are already struggling. So, what are they doing differently?
Those that are struggling tend to be those that are resistant to change or who simply don’t see that they have a problem. On the other hand, those that are responding positively to widespread disruption are those that have seen the need to review their core beliefs about how things should work within their organisation.
Martine Letts has had many years of experience in bringing different parties together to manage change and achieve shared goals. She was a senior Australian diplomat for 17 years, instrumental in uniting state and territory based Red Cross organisations under the banner of the Australian Red Cross, and Deputy Director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy. In Martine’s podcast interview for The Mentor List, she stressed that much of Australia’s economic future is going to be co-created. This is true at every level from individuals and departments right through to strategic partnerships between companies and between countries.
Throughout Martine’s interview, she highlights the need to focus on four key areas. Diversity, collaboration, critical thinking. and communication.
For some people, the push to have more diversity within their organisation is seen as a silly ideological box to tick in order to satisfy the pen-pushers. These people are missing the point. Diversity is being embraced because it allows different perspectives to be shared in a way that helps others see things in a new light.
Carol Kinsey Gorman elaborates on this in her article for Forbes 8 tips for collaborative leadership.
“Group members who think alike or are trained in similar disciplines with similar bases of knowledge run the risk of becoming insular in their ideas. Diversity causes people to consider perspectives and possibilities that would otherwise be ignored.”
If your organisation is locked in a culture of individual gain and mistrust of others, then this will need to be addressed before effective collaboration can take place. This can only be done when everyone, from the newest recruit to the CEO share a common vision and core values. When systems are set up to enable the sharing of skills and ideas. When frontline workers and all other stakeholders are given the opportunity to have their say in all types of change processes. Ownership empowers people and means they are more likely to make the changes they have been involved in developing than ones that have been thrust upon them.
Now, when employers are choosing people to join a team or organisation, critical thinking skills, emotional intelligence, and how well they engage with others are just as important, if not more important, than their education level and experience.
We need to be able to not just understand the information before us but to analyse and interpret it from fresh perspectives. As Martine says:
“In some cases, when you’re reading the (ancient) texts, you know for a fact that some of their assumptions have been overtaken by events or technology, but the critical approach to understanding what is the nub of this problem and how might we resolve it -that is something that has been required through the ages and will be required into the future.”
It’s not enough to have great ideas or lots of passion. To move forward as an organisation, communication needs to be seamless in every way. Everyone needs to feel comfortable in having their say and they need to know how their role benefits the whole group. Communication needs to flow, not only upwards and downwards, but in all directions and across multiple platforms. Technology can help with this, but the processes need to be deliberately planned by humans.
How leaders communicate with their teams on a daily basis will have a strong influence on the workplace culture, so this must be carefully considered. You can make changes, but unless the people who will be implementing those changes understand and accept the reasons behind them, they may ignore or even actively resist them.
Resistance to change can often be pre-empted and eased by leaders anticipating likely reactions. You need to know how employees and other stakeholders feel about the proposed changes, what their concerns and fears are, and what factors are important to them. The best way to do this is simply to ask them, listen to them, and take their responses into account when making decisions.
Focus on these four key elements and you’ll go a long way towards helping your organisation adapt to the relentless and exciting changes that lie in our foreseeable future.
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In addition to her roles with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian Red Cross, and the Lowy Institute, Martine Letts has served on the Australian National University Council and been the CEO of the Australia China Business Council. She is currently a member of the Australian Volunteers International board and a member of the Committee for Melbourne.
To hear more of Martine’s insights into effective collaboration and change management, tune into her podcast interview for The Mentor List. You’ll also hear her share personal story, from being the child of a foreign diplomat to advising Australia’s Foreign Minister and much more.
Kick start your personal journey to success from the conversations David has with his inspirational guests on The Mentor List. www.mentorlist.com.au
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