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Lead a team through AI: an inclusive approach to change

Learn how you can lead your awesome team through AI integration in their workflows. Learn valuable insights on engaging different personalities and turning their unique strengths into your organizational advantage.

Lead a team through AI

Imagine: you’re Alex, the leader of a dynamic, high-performing team in a tech-forward company. You have a broad mix of talents in your team, and you’ve fostered an atmosphere of mutual respect, where everyone feels valued.

However, a new challenge is coming: your company has decided to incorporate AI into its overall workflow. You’re under a lot of pressure from the higher-ups to get everyone on board the AI train, but when you look at your team, you’re worried about the range of reactions you’ll get from your talented team members.

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In short, you know this can make your team more productive and competitive, but you also understand it’s a change. You are determined to navigate this transition smoothly.

So, how do you do it?

Introducing your team

Let’s identify five distinct personas who may be in your team and what motivates them.

1. Traditional Terry

Traditional Terry is your company’s historian, having been with the company for over 15 years. He’s a senior project manager known for his methodical approach and rich industry knowledge. Everyone knows Terry and everyone respects Terry. He’s a good egg.

Terry aspires to retire in this company, and his goal is to maintain the reliable and efficient work processes he’s developed over the years. He’s driven by a sense of duty and a strong belief in the company’s mission – and colleagues look to him as a stabilizer whenever things get a little hectic.

2,. Eager Enrique

Eager Enrique is fresh out of school. You just hired him last year as a junior developer because he’s incredibly keen and brings an absolute smorgasbord of nascent tech skills. He’s always on top of the latest tech trends and isn’t shy about voicing his ideas.

Enrique’s ambition is to become a tech influencer someday – heck, he even has his own YouTube channel with more than 10,000 followers. The chance to work with AI might just be the exciting break he’s looking for.

3. Cautious Chloe

Cautious Chloe is your meticulous and dedicated data analyst. She joined your team five years ago and has consistently demonstrated her ethical and thoughtful approach to work. She absolutely crushes it every time she has a data project on her desk, and she’s your go-to anytime you need to pull insights out of those nascent data sets.

In your 1-1s with her, you’ve come to learn that Chloe’s career goal is to move into a leadership role where she can influence company policy, particularly around ethical use of technology.

4. Strategic Sven

Strategic Sven is the team’s product manager. When you interviewed him for the open role, you knew he was the one. He brings with him a huge background in tech startups, plus an MBA from a top-tier business school.

Sven’s ambition is to improve the company’s strategic planning and he’s motivated by driving impactful change. He doesn’t like just getting the job done and going home – he wants to do a lot more than that.

5. Tech-Averse Thanh

Tech-Averse Thanh is your administrative assistant who has been with you for more than two years. Thanh’s goal is to excel in administration – and stability and harmony in the workplace are huge motivators.

Thanh prefers traditional methods and isn’t as comfortable with technology as the rest of the team. In fact, they prefer to do things the way it’s always been done (and proven to work, too).

At this week’s Monday meeting, you deliver the news from the higher-ups: the company wants to incorporate AI into everyone’s workflows. You highlight the benefits of AI – greater productivity, optimized processes, the ability to scale faster – and underscore its importance for meeting the company’s ambitious goals.

You reassure the team that you will support them throughout this transition.

Watching your team’s reactions

You see your team murmer and look at each other across the table. Yes, AI has already been in the news and this was somewhat expected, but you see that reactions are mixed and varied. Some nod and roll with it, others look a little more hesitant.

Let’s look at the five personas again and see how they react to the news.

1. Traditional Terry

Traditional Terry looks taken aback during your announcement, his brow furrowing. You’re not terribly surprised at this – he’s not necessarily averse to change, but you know he’ll see the “big picture” in everything that happens at the company.

In your 1-1, Terry expresses fear that AI will change the way he does his job or, worse, make him redundant. You can see the genuine concern in his eyes. Sure, his kids are grown up, but he still has his mortgage to pay and it’s not like he can easily migrate to a new job.

2. Eager Enrique

Eager Enrique, on the other hand, is visibly excited. As an early adopter of many technologies, even so far as to approach you regularly with new recommendations for your tech stack, there’s no question he sees this as an opportunity.

He’s practically brimming with ideas when you meet him, speaking rapidly about potential applications of AI. His enthusiasm is contagious both for you and the larger team, but you’re worried that he’s a bit too optimistic and not thinking about the realistic challenges that could surface.

3. Cautious Chloe

Cautious Chloe listens attentively during the meeting, her face thoughtful. She’s never been one to wear her heart on her sleeve, and to be fair, that’s one of her strengths – she’ll process new developments internally and meticulously, and then make decisions later.

In your 1-1 later that week, she voices concern about AI’s ethical implications and how job security will be ensured. You appreciate her frankness and careful consideration and, especially, the time she’s; taken to think it over rather than react strongly.

4. Strategic Sven

Strategic Sven listens attentively, nodding occasionally. You can see his MBA background whispering in his head, and of course, he’s seen a lot in his career in tech startups. This isn’t his first rodeo.

When meeting privately with you, he notes that he agrees with the strategic importance of AI in your 1-1 but admits he’s unsure about the execution. This needs to be carried out properly in order to succeed and, when you ask, he lists out the potential obstacles worth thinking about. You’re grateful to him for being pragmatic.

5. Tech-Averse Thanh

Tech-Averse Thanh looks nervous during your announcement. You’re not terribly surprised, but you’re worried. You know Thanh really needs to be a bit more flexible, but their administrative and organizational skills more than make up for that – so you really need them to be on board.

In your 1-1, they confess that the thought of using AI is a major stress inducer. It’s literally another thing they need to learn in order to do their job. They’re clearly anxious, worrying about whether they can keep up with the changes.

After hearing your team’s reactions, you realize that you have a critical task ahead. Everyone brings unique strengths to your team, and it’s vital that their voices are heard.

You know you must engage them individually to help them adapt to the new changes.

Engaging your team

Now that you’ve met with each of your team members, it’s time to put in an action plan for each one of them. It’s your job to bring the best out of them – and part of that involves getting them to adapt readily to AI’s entry in their day-to-day work and continue to flourish.

1. Traditional Terry

For Traditional Terry, begin with open conversations about his fears and reservations. Those hesitations are legitimate and understandable and you want to help him work through them. For starters, reinforce that his years of experience and established skills are invaluable to the team.

Show him – don’t just tell him – how AI can take over repetitive tasks, freeing him to focus his time and energy on complex, high-value work that draws on his experience. Provide real examples from other organizations that have successfully adopted AI without any impact to their actual team structure – and emphasize that job roles at those companies have actually evolved rather than disappeared.

And to further support him, work with HR to set up a personalized training program for him that helps him integrate AI, and touch base with him regularly to monitor progress.

2. Eager Enrique

With Eager Enrique, the prelude has already been covered. He’s already on board. Now, you have the opportunity to channel his excitement constructively in a way that benefits him and the team. Set up regular meetings to discuss his ideas, urge him to consider potential challenges, and ensure a balanced perspective on AI.

Encourage Enrique to join AI-focused groups or events to broaden his understanding. Given his aspirations to become a tech influencer, suggest that he document and share his AI learning journey, turning him into a proactive AI advocate within the team. Invite him to host lunch & learns every month – if he’s keen to be an influencer, he’ll jump at the idea.

3. Cautious Chloe

Cautious Chloe doesn’t like unknowns, so transparency is key here. Get her involved in discussions about the ethical framework within which the AI will operate. Invite her to decision-making meetings regarding AI deployment, allowing her the opportunity to voice her concerns.

Like Terry, you can also reassure Chloe that roles will evolve rather than be replaced and encourage her to think about how AI can boost her own work. Her concerns can be converted into a mechanism for constructive feedback, helping your team and company foresee and mitigate potential risks.

4. Strategic Sven

When dealing with Strategic Sven, focus on business strategy and execution because that’s what speaks to him. Give him the resources to design a clear and effective AI implementation strategy – after all, you’ll be needing one anyway, so let him play a leading role in that.

He can also be a great sounding board during your 1-1 sessions. Encourage him to pose questions, discuss doubts, and explore solutions. And bring in external AI consultants where needed, to provide expert opinions and recommendations. This will bolster Sven’s confidence in navigating the change and benefit the team as a whole.

5. Tech-Adverse Thanh

Tech-Averse Thanh needs an approachable introduction to AI. Explain the technology in simple terms, direclty linking benefits to everyday tasks. Pair Thanh with Enrique, as Enrique’s enthusiasm can be infectious.

Offer additional support, such as optional training sessions or learning resources. Make sure to frequently highlight their progress, praising them for each successful step – and regularly provide reassurance that the job won’t be tech-first but rather, tech-supported. The human is still core to the job.

This engagement doesn’t happen in a vacuum, nor is it something you can strike off as ‘done’. You need to continue working with your team to ensure success – you’re their manager, after all. That’s no different when bringing AI into the picture. It’s an ongoing process.

So, how does your team respond? Let’s look at the results of your work (and make no mistake, you’ve worked hard!).

Gauging your team’s results

A few months have passed, and you’re seeing positive changes. Let’s look at what those changes are.

1. Traditional Terry

With your encouragement and reassurance, Traditional Terry has started to warm up to the AI tools. He’s really appreciating how they free him from those annoyingly repetitive tasks – and you can see how much more relaxed he is when he shows up for work.

Plus, he now has more time to mentor younger team members, sharing his invaluable experience and sage advice with them.

2. Eager Enrique

Eager Enrique is thriving, regularly sharing his AI learning journey and experiences with the team. He’s even turning to blog posts on the company’s internal platform, and those have been receiving positive feedback from people at all levels in your company.

He’s now a go-to resource person for AI-related questions and his YouTube channel is now accumulating more and more subscribers – positioning him to be the tech influencer he always wanted to be. And because of his fan base, he’s able to bring in fresh candidates whenever your company needs to fill important tech positions.

3. Cautious Chloe

Cautious Chloe’s pragmatic, level-headed approach has positioned her as a key player in ensuring that the AI deployment aligns with overall ethical standards and with the company’s own values.

Because her work is producing results that are very much in tune with her own personal priorities, she’s become more confident in her work. She appreciates that her concerns were heard and addressed, and her insights have proven invaluable in foreseeing and mitigating risks.

4. Strategic Sven

After several brainstorming sessions and expert consultations, Strategic Sven has designed a comprehensive AI implementation strategy that incorporates all the elements that must be considered to see it succeed. He’s learned a lot from watching other tech startups succeed and fail and knows the importance of having a thoughtful, well-planned plan that executes smoothly.

Not only is Sven motivated by finally being able to put his MBA learnings into action, the team has also responded positively to the well-planned rollout. This boosts Sven’s confidence as a strategic leader.

5. Tech-Averse Thanh

Tech-Averse Thanh is slowly but surely learning the ropes of AI. Paired with Enrique, Thanh is making steady progress and showing less resistance to using the AI tools. You’re even seeing them hanging out in the lunch room together talking animatedly about tech.

It turns out Thanh is a people person, not a tech person. They’re motivated by human connections and teamwork, not weird tech things and robots and paperwork and stuff. But now that Thanh has put a ‘human’ face on AI in the form of Enrique, there’s a sense of familiarity and achievement as they become more comfortable working with the technology.

Not bad, not bad. You, Alex, have done a good job. The team is in sync and they’re driven to succeed.

Watching your team thrive

As you look at your team, you feel a sense of accomplishment. Despite initial resistance and fear, every team member has adapted to the incorporation of AI in their own way that works for them.

Your belief in each individual, open communication, and personalized strategies have all paid off. You’ve mastered the fine art of inclusive leadership here, by bringing out each individual’s strengths and setting each one for success.

The team is now more productive, and they’ve evolved professionally in the process. AI is no longer a foreign concept; it’s now just another tool that your team uses to thrive in their work.

Frequently asked questions

How do I identify different personas on my team?

Analyze each member's background, skillset, ambitions, and motivators to understand their individuality.

What approach should I take with traditionalists fearing job security?

Address fears openly while highlighting how AI complements rather than replaces roles.

How can I involve those concerned about the ethical implications of AI technology?

Include them in decision-making meetings around ethical frameworks and policies.

What if a teammate has difficulties adapting to new technologies?

Pair them with more tech-savvy colleagues and offer continuous support such as training resources.

Can inclusive leadership contribute positively to AI implementation within teams?

Absolutely! Fostering open communication helps address concerns proactively, enabling smoother transitions.

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