Lord Tennyson was writing about soldiers in this poem. However, many of today’s leaders would use the exact words when leading their teams through change.
They receive their assignments like soldiers, and then translate those assignments to their direct reports by announcing the change in a sterile, people-less way.
Charts are provided, stats discussed, and the change is vaguely addressed through a series of “This is how it’s got to be done” speeches that are neither motivational nor clear. In the meantime, employees take the lack of clarity and add substance through rumors and speculation. What else do they have?
I remember listening to one leader who announced change in a dry, matter-of-fact voice. He read a message to his people, revealing as a series of tasks without explaining why the change was occurring and how it would ultimately impact the people involved.
When I asked him to address the “why” of the change, he said to me, “They don’t need to know why – they just need to do it.” I guess theirs was not to make reply. Theirs was but to do the tasks and emotionally die.
People do not require extensive information as much as they do a reason why they are going to put extra time and effort into something. They just want to know the truth, not more facts cloaked in politically correct, watered-down speeches.
If you’re leading change, remember that your people have a right to reason why, and until they understand the why you don’t have an engaged group of people. Instead, you have robots that will perform tasks and emotionally disengage as quickly as possible.
If you don’t provide the why, you are leading the Charge of the Flight Brigade. They’ll leave you physically or emotionally, and you’ll go into your challenge without the team of soldiers that you’ll need to obtain success. To effectively lead change, you’ll need to shine a clear light on the reason why.
Then you’ll be leading the Charge of the Light Brigade.