5 Ways to Effetively Lead Your Team During Times of Change

Posted by Susan Cullen on 06 Sep 2018

Situational LeadershipCompany changes are a normal part of doing business. Unfortunately, they can also be very difficult for many of your employees. Employees in the middle of a big organizational shift may experience a number of emotions and other responses, including:

  • Anxiety related to the shift
  • Anger 
  • A sense of betrayal
  • Feelings of vulnerability
  • Uncertainty
  • Increased feelings of stress

As a result, the rumor mill throughout the office becomes more active, employees struggle to concentrate and stay focused on the job, and there may be decreased productivity. If layoffs occur, many employees may find themselves carrying a heavier workload while struggling with a sense of survivor's guilt. It's hard to move your business through a major transition--and it's harder to be the leader in charge throughout that process. Knowing the right strategies to help move your team through that change period can help make for a more effective transition.  

Strategy #1: Improve Communication

During periods of change, your first line of defense should be to communicate with your team as efficiently and effectively as possible. This includes:

  • Listening to employee opinions. You might not have the power to change anything in response to their complaints and concerns, but you can still show them that their concerns are valid and that you genuinely care about what they have to say.
  • Providing as much information as possible to employees throughout the change process. It's important for employees to know what's going to happen, when it's going to happen, and what they should expect from the process. 
  • Keeping avenues of communication open to allow for questions and future concerns as the change process moves forward.

Employees need to know that they are fully supported as you move through this difficult time of change. The more support you provide for your employees, the better they are likely to respond to the situation as a whole, particularly since your support and assistance can help alleviate anxiety. 

Strategy #2: Create a Plan

Big changes sweeping throughout your company aren't going to happen overnight. From a shift in the products you're putting together to a change in leadership, it's important not to rock the boat too much. You can't go home one afternoon to one company and come back to a completely different one the next day. Instead, make sure that there's a plan in place to help the company ultimately reach its goals. 

Start with the end goal. What is it that you're hoping to achieve through these changes? Make sure that you know what you're working toward!

Create mini goals in the middle of the process. You need to know that you're making progress toward those important big-picture goals. Breaking down your goals into manageable pieces will make it easier to reach those bigger goals in a timely and effective manner.

Prioritize the most important elements of each change. Make sure that both you and the employees working with you fully understand what needs to be done first in order to reach your goals. You don't want to get stuck on a minor detail when there are more serious considerations to think about.

Communicate your goals and your team's progress toward those goals. When you're in a leadership position throughout a time of change, you're in charge of directing your coworkers through the process. As you share information, you'll provide others with the data they need to make smart decisions and take care of their pieces of the company change.

Strategy #3: Stay Calm

Change can be terrifying and disruptive for everyone--even you! Making a big change, especially one that includes changes to your schedule, processes, or the people that you work with every day, can be daunting. It's important, however, that you keep your cool throughout the process. How you react to the change will provide the template for how other employees will react. By staying calm even when you don't necessarily feel like keeping your cool, you'll find that you're able to provide more effective leadership throughout the transition. In many cases, your cool, calm demeanor will help other employees accept changes that they might otherwise find difficult to handle--and as a result, the transition will move more smoothly for everyone involved. 

Strategy #4: Listen

Transition is hard on many employees. You don't just want to open the door to communication to allow them to ask questions or air their concerns; you also want to genuinely listen to what they have to say. Not only that, listen to what's said when they aren't talking specifically to you. If there are a lot of complaints or worries going around, you'll be able to respond more effectively if you know what's going on before you're blindsided by an employee shouting about it--or worse, walking away from the job. Look for ways to alleviate concerns and show employees that they and their needs still matter. In many cases, this can make a big difference in the way employees ultimately respond to the changes in your business. 

Strategy #5: Maintain Your Culture

There are plenty of great things about your company culture that you love and don't want to lose through this time of change. Maybe you work in a highly collaborative office environment where everyone gets along well together, or maybe you love that your office encourages learning and continuing education for all employees. Whatever it is about the company culture that you love, do your best to maintain it! This includes:

  • Keeping facets of the culture that you love the best, whether that means casual Fridays or potlucks for birthdays or important events.
  • Looking for ways to keep employees connected even through restructuring events and other challenges.
  • Actively determining what it is that helps keep your company culture strong, then doing your best to help maintain it throughout the transition.

The last thing you want is for your transition to take away some of the best parts of your company culture. Luckily, it doesn't have to! When you acknowledge those great parts of your culture and take steps to maintain them, you'll discover that you're often able to keep the best parts of your job no matter how much seems to be changing around you.

Change is difficult for many people. Effective leadership throughout that change, however, can help improve your success rate and help keep employees in the office, rather than seeing them leaving in droves as a result of those changes. Check out our Leading Organizational Change course to help effectively lead your team through those challenges. If you need more help with leadership training and development, contact us. We'll work with you to help ensure that your company leaders know how to lead more effectively through times of change, providing your team with better transitions and a team that's more committed to seeing things through.

Download our whitepaper "Techniques for Retaining and Engaging Your Workforce" to assess the symptoms and address methods for enhancing employee retention.

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Topics: Communication Skills

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