4 keys to leading through change
by Mike Mallaro
October 11, 2019

We live in a time of exponential change. It seems everything is changing—quickly. Five years ago, Walmart and General Electric were among the most valuable companies in the world, cryptocurrency wasn’t a thing, no one rented a room for a night in a stranger’s home and home medical equipment (HME) reimbursements were a lot higher (but Round 2 cuts were looming). Five years from now, drones and self-driving trucks will make deliveries, health care treatments will be much more personalized and the health care payer world will have been turned upside down. (One thing will likely stay the same: our disappointment in elected leaders in Washington.)

Some changes are driven by technology. Others are spurred by economics. Still others are ignited by crisis. Rapidly changing expectations and attitudes also incite change. With all this change, what’s a leader to do? Know that leadership matters. Leadership is a difference-maker—often the margin between success and failure. Investing in leaders in your organization is forward-thinking and smart. That investment must also include yourself—devote time and attention to continuous improvement yourself. In that light, allow me to share four keys to leading through change.

1. Make leadership a priority.

Leading people is the most important thing you do. Yes, there are many things on your plate each day. Sales, operational efficiency, planning and collections are all very important; however, none of it is more important than leading your team. Because leadership is important but not urgent, it sometimes gets set aside or put off for another time. That is a mistake.

Times of change and turmoil require leaders to lead. Your team, big or small, is more powerful than you as an individual. Don’t kid yourself—the majority of people in the workforce today are not fully engaged. World-renowned author and speaker Simon Sinek said, “The boss has the authority, but employees have the power—because power resides in those who can give, or withhold, maximum effort.” It is on you to coach your people, encourage them and show them the way. When you can optimize employee engagement, most challenges in your business can be slayed.

2. Build the right team.

Almost everybody understands the importance of having the right people in the right seats on the bus. A big part of leading is getting those people in place. If they are not there today, you need to address it sooner rather than later. Personnel decisions are often emotional and personal and that makes them tough. However, a leader must make the tough calls.

One of the key elements in the people you need is the willingness and ability to improve. As New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote: “Now that the velocity of change has accelerated, learning can no longer be a set dose of education consumed in the first third of one’s life. The new killer skillset is an agile mindset that values learning over knowing.” With all the change ahead, your only hope is to be able to learn new things, to grow and to improve. Your team must be populated with people willing to improve, and your culture has to encourage personal growth and learning.

Fill your team with team players. Team players possess three traits. They are hungry and motivated—ready to slay dragons. They are humble enough to realize it is not just about them. They are “people smart,” able to understand how other people think and feel and to behave accordingly. Populating your team with strong team players willing to get better is the only way to go.

3. Set the course.

Uncertainty and anxiety about change and about the future negatively impact people on your team. People are looking to the leader to articulate the way forward.

Share the vision of where you are going and what you must accomplish as an organization to get there. Articulate the “why” and the “how.” You might need to simplify some of the vision for clarity and create common language behind it to aid in understanding. You will be well served to connect your strategy and view of the future to a purpose. People work best when they understand how their efforts fit into a plan.

Setting the course includes setting clear expectations about what you expect. When people understand the vision and see how they fit into it, you give them a chance to buy in. Most want to buy in—they want to get on the bus—but you still have to give them reasons to step aboard. When they choose to buy in,
you win.

4. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

I sometimes feel as if I’ve told our people the same thing a thousand times. A good rule of thumb is that when you’re sick of hearing the message you’re sending, then perhaps a handful of people have actually heard what you said. People see, hear and understand at different rates and at different times. Never stop communicating, even when it seems repetitive to you.

A great leader connects to the team and connects the team to the journey. Communicate about what you’re seeing your team do, what you like and what you don’t like. It helps to reinforce the behaviors you seek when you let people know.

The velocity of change will continue. The world will look vastly different in five years than it looks today. Everyone will need to know new things, work in different ways and use technology that hasn’t even been invented yet. The HME world will never be the way it was in the glory days of high reimbursement rates. However, this is the early part of the glory days of demand. Demand for the equipment and services to solve health care problems will continue to grow­—it’s nowhere near the peak. Leading through changing times may well be the difference between succumbing to the winds of change and succeeding.