Leadership Org Culture

Learning to love the lag

I can’t remember where and when I first heard this one. It is a somewhat dated adage about the need for leaders to be patient in making changes if they are to survive mentally and continue to confront challenges.

I was reminded of this recently while working with a client, whose staff exhibited near signs of post-traumatic stress from the effects of what must have been tyrannical, invalidative leadership practices. To be specific, a consistent diet of top down, “we don’t listen to you”, “your opinion doesn’t matter”, “you are not worthy”, “you don’t have the education or experience” resulted in a group that was angry, resentful, distrustful of leadership, withholding their true opinions. Tough space for a new leader to enter into.
solution
It’s easy to become impatient with such behavior. You weren’t there, so you can’t appreciate it. Your own need as a leader to make a difference and correct the wrongs can lead to impatience;“why can’t they put this behind them”, “let’s start anew”, “can’t you see that I am different”, etc. Truth is, they can’t and won’t for a time.

By “lag”, I mean the passage of time between when a positive change occurs, or is evident, and when those impacted by the change trust that it is well-intended, will be stable and will produce a good result for them. Depending upon the level of trauma from previous experiences, this could take weeks to months. Further, it will roller coaster, meaning that staff will trust management for a time, but then see something that reminds them of the previous reign of terror and return to their suspicions.

So, “love the lag” is really understanding the struggle that others have in believing and trusting that you have, indeed, created a better future for them.

One other point, some may well never embrace the change. If they are obstructive, you will have the tough choice of impeding progress or encourage those unable to transition to move on to a new work setting.

As always, I’m interested in your questions and thoughts on the above. Drop me an e-mail with your comments.

Bill Dann