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Peter Aceto: Six Ways To Lead In Times Of Change

Peter Aceto: Six Ways To Lead In Times Of Change

Peter Aceto is a passionate leader. As the President and CEO of Tangerine, he stands for more than a leader of a bank: his goal is to change the conversation about leadership, and to inspire unconventional thinking and transparency that delivers unparalleled results for business and consumers. The Globe and Mail recently spoke with Aceto about the leadership lessons he learned while transitioning his staff from ING to Tangerine:

We all perceive change differently: what is 10 per cent uncertainty or discomfort to one is 100 per cent chaos to another.

This is a sentiment I’ve shared before and it’s worth repeating. What I won’t delve into is the fact that change is guaranteed. You all know this to be true, or at least I hope you do. Instead, I’d like to address a more relevant topic, which is how leaders can best help employees cope with change.

I had the fortune to chat with Simon Sinek as he was promoting his new book Leaders Eat Last, and asked him specifically about leading in times of change.

His answer was incredibly helpful, at a time when I personally needed some reassurance as I led our team at Tangerine through a change of ownership. He said: “Share whatever information you have as quickly as possible, as openly as possible, even if you can only say a little … say it.”

This was wonderful advice that I certainly followed, but did I get it entirely right? Not all of it. Here are some insights from my experience in leading change:

Inspire change

What makes change initiatives come alive is when you take your employees on the journey of where you are today and where you intend to be tomorrow. It is the stories you tell, the motivation and encouragement you impart that make your vision real, understandable, exciting, even palpable.

Don’t paint rosier pictures

Share the reason for change as quickly as possible and just as important, be as honest as you can be. It may sound a little radical, but in times of change people don’t expect only good news. Your employees are smart. You simply can’t be too protective, over-promise or get ahead of the information. You have to manage it everyday.

Provide genuine support

Hemingway has a great saying: “when people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” Everyone perceives change through his or her own filters. So create an atmosphere of assistance, encourage dialogue and be especially in tune to the difficulties some may experience.

Make it relevant

Embracing change is a personal decision. At the end of the day, people want to know how the change benefits them. As the saying goes: “What’s in it for me?” So list the possibilities for career development, impart the excitement, opportunity and growth potential, and certainly the pride one achieves in accomplishing success in times of uncertainty both individually and as a team.

Don’t stop communicating

While I believe that change is hugely rewarding, a leader cannot underestimate its exhausting effects on employees’ motivation and productivity levels. That is why repetition is an absolute must. Be consistent with your communication to your teams and always make yourselves available for all questions and concerns.

Show progress

If you’re going to create change in your organization, understand that you are taking your team on a journey as a GPS would. So leaders must demonstrate that progress is being made and that you are moving along the highway to your destination. That is the surest way to make the change real and help your team feel the fruits of their labour.

My mistake was in being too fatherly, reassuring and over protective of a business I had been part of for 17 years. But it is a mistake that has provided an opportunity to earn a deeper trust with my team. All we can do as leaders is be transparent about our actions and learn to improve. What we cannot do is deny the advantages of change.

I came across this quote recently from author Jeanie Daniel Duck: “Confidence is success remembered.”

That is the sentiment I hope you’ll take away as you guide your teams through the rollercoaster of change. Change is challenging, but when the challenge is met, you would have gained traction, perseverance and the fortitude needed to face any future trials. You would have earned your confidence.

By Peter Aceto/The Globe and Mail/September, 2014