The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have
nothing to do with work. –W. Edwards Deming
It would irritate anyone. Your team has an assignment, and everyone has a strategy on how to proceed. Then, changes happen. Upper management keeps shifting the deadline, causing everyone involved to feel stress. Or perhaps your organization is in a state of flux, where work schedules, building protocols, and breaks are continually changing. If you’re in charge of a group of people, you feel their stress. While you empathize with them, you’re also responsible for keeping them focused and productive. Here’s how to effectively lead–even as schedules change.
Most likely, you feel the same frustration your team does when you hear about a schedule change, even if you better understand the reasoning behind it. Whether you’re just as surprised as they are or are the bearer of bad news, they’ll take behavior cues from you. If your tone and body language say you view the change as an imposition, they’ll pick up on your irritability. If they think you think the deadline is impossible, they will think it must be. Instead, model positivity and offer encouragement.
Talk About It
When schedule changes are an inconvenience, acknowledge what your team is going through. Thank them for being willing to work hard for the team and your organization. If scheduling changes cause conflict in their personal lives, listen to what they have to say and try to find solutions.
Have Their Backs
If schedule changes are too frequent or place unreasonable stress on your team, talk to upper management to see if you can secure more favorable terms. If team members need time off for something prearranged, let them know you support them. Even if there’s nothing you can do, the effort you put into it will build their morale.
If you know frequent change is going to be a reality for some time, cultivate an attitude of cheerful flexibility. When change is a challenge you’re prepared to face together, it can bond your team.
Changes are hard for everyone; it’s your job to stay above the fray. Close each day by dealing with what remains outstanding. Develop a plan for responding quickly to schedule changes. Just being prepared will create a feeling of readiness and capability that helps your team respond positively.