Change — whether structural, cultural, or both — can make or break an organization.
That’s because change pushes us all out of our comfort zones. In high-stress, high-stakes environments, it’s only natural that rapid, ongoing change creates fear.
It’s important to understand this from a leadership perspective. Once you acknowledge that people fear change, you can start to lead through it more effectively.
With the right outlook and strategies, you can ensure that your team or organization emerges from change better than it was before, having built something truly exciting along the way.
Here are three steps to leading through change:
1. Communicate change clearly and consistently.
As a leader during times of change, frequency and regularity of communication is key. There is a tendency for managers to say, “Here’s what’s going on. Now, let’s all get on board and get on with it.” This one-and-done approach breeds misinformation and fear.
The more information you provide, the better. Information helps employees confront change and start to envision a new reality. If you don’t communicate clearly and consistently, people will just fill in the blanks themselves.
Try setting a weekly lunch meeting where anyone is welcome to come talk to you. You can also use different channels of communication, such as inviting questions via e-mail or setting monthly team meetings to give updates.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to have all the information to start communicating. Even if there are still uncertainties, setting regular times to talk will avoid the spread of misinformation and fear.
2. Create space for people’s resistance to change.
Everyone naturally resists change, and it’s not something you can wish away. The best way to lead through resistance is to create space for people to express how they feel.
The VIPP model is a powerful approach that you can use when someone comes to you frustrated with change, or you notice someone struggling. Here’s how it works:
- Vent: Let the individual vent to you and get it all out. When the person is done, ask, “What else?” Make sure everything comes out!
- “I” statements: Let the person know that you really heard what was said by expressing empathy, not sympathy. Say, “I totally understand” or “I hear you, and that makes a lot of sense.”
- Probe: Ask questions to get clarity on what’s bothering the individual. Dig deep to understand his or her point of view.
- Problem solve: Don’t tell the person how to solve the problem. Instead, explore solutions. Ask, “What are your ideas? What options do you see? What do you need from me?” Sometimes there is no solution, and you can say, “I need you to hang in there with me on this. We’ll get through it.”
The VIPP model lets people know it’s safe to have concerns, and that you expect them to have questions. Psychological safety is vital to a culture where people embrace change.
3. Focus on what will change and what won’t.
The real-life consequences of change are often difficult for people to grasp. To help people understand exactly what will change and what won’t, use this 4 Doors Exercise, which is based on the research of Jason Clarke.
Door 1: Things we used to be able to do and still can
Door 2: Things we couldn’t do before and still can’t do now
Door 3: Things we used to be able to do and can’t do now
Door 4: Things we couldn’t do before but can now
Walk your team members through this exercise to help them understand what will remain business as usual; what they’re giving up or letting go; and what they will gain from the change.
In a change-driven culture, people need something that they can count on. Your role as a leader is to help them feel grounded, and put their fear at ease. BRODY Pro’s interactive “Leading Through Change” workshop develops the skills needed to lead confidently through change.
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