In our last blog post, we talked about leaders managing themselves through change. This is obviously important for any leader to be effective in today’s rapidly evolving economic environment. If you are an individual contributor, you wouldn’t have to go any further than this. However, leaders have to do more than just get themselves into a good place with change, they may have a team they need to bring along with them. Because people have such varied responses to change, leaders have to be able to flex their approaches.

Seana is a senior-level manager in Human Resources, and she has just found out that the company has decided to move in a different direction with their HR information systems and move away from the system they’ve been working with for the last decade. Although somewhat limited and antiquated, the HR team is very familiar and comfortable with the system. She understands why the change is being made, but she anticipates some resistance from the team as they work through the change. Seana was proactive and was able to get a lot of information about why the change is being made and has shared it with her team. This seemed to help a number of people move toward accepting the change. For the ones who showed more resistance, she met with them one on one to talk them through the reasons for the switch. Much to her frustration, many of these discussions didn’t go well. The people didn’t seem to accept her reasoning, and the conversations felt more like debates than discussions.

Seana’s biggest mistake was assuming that everyone on the team needed the same thing to help them get through the change – information. This proved useful to some people, but to others who were having more emotional reactions to the change, any corporate justification for change felt like a threat and was rejected. This creates a cycle that feels more like an argument than a leader trying to help her team adjust to change. The information was helpful for her in the change process, but that doesn’t mean it will be helpful to everyone.

Great leaders adjust their approach depending on the team member, and there are four main approaches to leading others through change:

    • Provide information: This is usually most helpful at the beginning of the change process. However, information is easily rejected by those struggling with their emotional reaction to change.
    • Provide support: Once someone arrives at a negative emotional place relative to the change, it is essential that leaders show support by actively listening and showing empathy. Without this, people will be deaf to your message.
    • Provide clear direction: After helping your team work through their negative emotions, they are often much more willing to begin considering ways to move forward relative to the change. At this point, they are hungry for direction and solutions.
    • Provide engagement and encouragement: For those team members who seem to have worked through the change pretty effectively, it is essential to find ways to keep them engaged and committed. Provide regular encouragement and empower them to keep moving forward.

Even if you have effectively managed yourself through change, if you are unable to lead your team effectively through change it will have a negative impact on the organization. To learn more about this complex topic, please download our free eBook called “Leading Others Through Change.” Tell us what you think on our Twitter or Facebook page, and feel free to share this post.

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