The Trapeze Artist: Leading Your Team in Navigating Change

As a kid, I loved going to the circus and watching the trapeze artists. You’ve probably seen them, too—limber, athletic men and women who bravely let go of one bar, sail through the air, catch another bar (or another trapeze artist!) and continue gliding above the audience’s heads as if they can fly.

I like to think of navigating change as a trapeze act. If you’re a leader, you’re overseeing a team; and chances are, you’ve already had to help your team navigate some change. Right now, your team is swinging on bars in one location—they have systems, passions, goals, and relationships that are familiar. It’s brave of them to even be on the bar at all. But chances are, you see more opportunity across the way, and you’re trying to bring everybody along with you.

What we do as leaders when we navigate change is, we basically tell our teams, “Hey, I know you’re comfortable on this bar, going back and forth. But over there is a better bar. There are more things out there for us to discover—better things! It’s better for us, and it’s better for the people we serve. It will help all of us. So what I’m asking you to do, as your leader, is let go of this bar, fly through the air—holding onto nothing—for a little bit, grab the next bar at the right time, and enjoy life on the other side.”

It’s no wonder people are scared to do this! Very often, they’re resistant to do it. So what does it take to help them get over that fear of flying? It takes trust. The more leadership equity you build with your team—the more times they jump and realize that there’s something waiting for them on the other side—the more trust you’ll build. Maybe it’s your own hands waiting to catch them on the other side of their leap. Maybe it’s another team members’. No matter the case, trust is imperative if they’re going to jump.

Navigating change is never easy—not for you as the leader, and not for those underneath you. But a trapeze artist has faith, both in their partner and in the equipment. If you can build that trust amongst your team, there won’t be a jump they’re unwilling to make, because they know that they won’t fall. 

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