Tribe Culture Change | How every leader ought to handle a setback
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23 Feb How every leader ought to handle a setback

Just when your hard work begins to pay off, and it finally looks like you’ll achieve your goals – CRASH! The unforeseen happens and feels like a big, demoralising step backwards.

In my case it was an accident during a cycling event, which left me sprawling on the tarmac with a broken hip after training so hard and for so long. All the numbers looked right on the day – my power, speed, heart rate and cadence. And everything pointed towards a decent time with a high placing in the overall results.

That was until I lost control of my bicycle on a patch of black ice.

For leaders like you, a setback is more likely to be a workplace accident after months of steadily improving engagement, encouraging people to think differently about tasks and getting them to look out for themselves and each other.
bicycle-crash
Your numbers were probably going in the right direction too, giving you hope that all was well. No doubt your workforce was making confident strides in near-miss reporting, suffering fewer injuries, and sharing more suggestions for improvements and increasing, regular, positive safety conversations.

Then the accident happens

It’s probably something quite silly that you didn’t see coming. And now you feel like you’re back at square one. But let me reassure you – you’re definitely not.

All those improvements you’ve made weren’t in vain. That new mindset in your workplace is still there, and it’s spreading – with improved communications making a positive impact at every level.

Just imagine how much worse the situation might be if you hadn’t put in all that effort over the previous months. How many more accidents, on top of this one, would you be dealing with now?

Sustained culture change isn’t a linear process

If anything, culture change appears more exponential with a slow steady start, and that often feels like a lot of hard work for very few tangible gains. That’s why it’s so crucial to keep the faith at this point.

Yet small improvements are everywhere (if you look closely enough for them) so it’s essential to recognise, highlight and celebrate them, both for your own sanity and to encourage others around you. Eventually you’ll reach a tipping point, when change takes hold and then it accelerates.

There’s no short-cut to reaching your tipping point, it’s all about getting a critical mass of people on board, and ensuring you have good, clear, sensible goals that everyone buys into and feels inspired by.

As for poor limping me, it’s time for a new set of goals, focused on walking properly again, and eventually getting back on the bike so I can regain and surpass my previous fitness levels.

Yes, setbacks like these are very frustrating at first – but that’s all they are: short-term obstacles which stand between determined people like you and your workforce, and the deep satisfaction of achieving something you set your mind to.

Nick Wharton
Nick Wharton
nick.wharton@tribecc.com