As a Leader, your purpose is to moving people into the future not recreating the past. Tensions emerge when you pull toward the future but your followers cling to the past. Clinging to the past is losing your future.
Why do People cling to the past?
They don’t feel heard. People who consistently bring up past situations are saying, “Please listen to me.”
They need validation. People who don’t feel heard feel put down. They wait for your (or someone else’s) validation as they believe that only validated people courageously move forward.
They fear the future. Even if it’s painful, the certain past for them, is more comfortable than an uncertain future.
They are not convinced that your plan under your leadership for the future is actually better. They need validation of your vision.
So, how do you reach out and help people move into the future?
By establishing certainty based on people first and plans second. Do people trust your leadership? If not, forget reaching for the future. The future is always about people. Do people respect the team and each other?
By learning from failure. Your responses to past failures establish boldness or caution. Did you correct the past or focus on the future when failure occurred? Correcting the past puts people down. Ask, “What did we learn?” or, “Who will we adapt next time?”
How can leaders help followers escape the past?
By listening rather than arguing or solving concerns about the past and future. Say, “I hear you,” without saying, “But.” No one listens to you until they feel you have listened to them.
Say, “Tell me your concerns,” and then ask, “What’s important about that?” When you listen to their concerns, you are validating their perceptions. Leaders who reject the concerns of others create adversarial relationships. Ask the second question.
Engage people in creating the plan. People don’t doubt the plan they create. They doubt yours. If you expect people to be engaged, engage them.