Leading through change: Strategies for guiding your team

Leading through change: Strategies for guiding your team

Let's be real: Nobody likes change at first. Throughout evolution, we've always depended on stable routines for survival. But the world spins much faster now than before, and ironically, businesses today must adapt to survive.

The catch is that the amygdala — the part of the brain that signals danger — hasn't caught up. Many still perceive change as a threat and resist it in an attempt to preserve the status quo. And this is a real challenge in management.

So how can leaders show up for their teams through transitions? I'll explain in this article. Let's get started.

The psychological impact of change

Change affects everyone differently. Some will experience frustration, anxiety and resistance. Others may feel empowered, relieved or even more engaged. Many will experience a combination of the two.

While it's not your responsibility to predict these reactions, you can help manage them on the job. In 2022, New South Wales introduced the NSW Regulation, stipulating that managers and employers must now respond to, manage and prevent psychosocial risks at work.

Sounds like a tall order — but in my experience, it's about balance. Change management requires leaders to empathise with their teams while keeping them aligned with the company vision.

How to communicate during change

Transparent communication is the most obvious way to show empathy and motivate your team. Here are some best practices for spoken and written communications:

  • Choose your timing wisely: Don't communicate too early or too late. Change is unsettling, and when an individual only has half the story their imaginations can take over, leading to more stress. On the other hand, communicating too late leaves no time for a team to mentally and practically prepare for shifts.
  • Be clear, direct and respectful: Changes impact some positively and others negatively. Confusion during change will make it harder, so be specific and willing to clarify if people have questions and concerns.
  • Be accountable: Certain employees may try to assign blame or responsibility for the transitions. Stay accountable by listening to their concerns, but remember you don't have to subscribe to their perspective.

Maintaining team morale

Adjusted hours, salary shifts and fluctuating workloads affect your team outside the workplace. If a team member needs extra time, space, flexibility, or support, try to be as accommodating as possible.
Recognition programs and team-building activities can maintain morale by helping employees settle into new roles and understand their contributions are valued. However, keep in mind that implementing these immediately before a change occurs may be perceived as inauthentic in hindsight.

Actionable transition strategies for implementing change

Here are some practical steps to help you move through change.

  • Have a clear plan: Know what you're doing, what you aim to achieve and how you will achieve it before you make moves. Clarify uncertainties before you involve your team.
  • Prepare the team: Respectfully inform relevant people about upcoming changes so they have time to prepare for the conversation.
  • Action change: Start with a conversation and progress in a structured way. Be prepared to adjust the sails if necessary.
  • Reflect: Leading change doesn't always go according to plan. I try to reflect on what went well and how I can improve my approach and communications for next time.

Create feedback mechanisms

Provide space for group communication and one-to-one conversations to ensure collective and individual support. By establishing channels for team feedback, you can address concerns and adjust strategies in real time.

Develop change leadership with IMCL

Change is never easy. Often, it's necessary to rally the troops and move out of your comfort zone to make real progress. If I could leave you with one final thought, it would be to keep transparent, two-way communication channels open. For more comprehensive training on managing change, check out our Leading Change course.

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