How to Successfully Weather the Season of Change

Published
14 December 2021
by
Adam Miller

One thing in life that is inevitable is change. From small changes to the big ones, no matter who you are, what your position, or how you live your life, change is something that will be a permanent theme throughout our personal and professional lives. 

The key to surviving (and thriving) in the face of change is all about how a person chooses to embrace change as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.

In this post, I’ll share some of my key learnings from my own experiences of major change in my career so your organisation can be better equipped to weather the stormy season of change.

People can experience emotional reactions when presented with change because challenging the status quo is not always a natural thing for people to embrace. As a leader, approaching change with empathy is a good way to guide team members through the emotional rollercoaster of change. 

The Kubler Ross Change Curve is a great reference point that helps any leader understand the emotional curve that people are going through when faced with change. Often the first stage of change, shock, is where leaders are caught off guard. One of the big questions you may catch yourself asking at this stage is ‘why on earth would our team be shocked when something is such a great idea?’.  

Well, shock is normally caused by surprise. How can we avoid surprises? Communication. If we communicate the change (as much as we can) then this will soften the shock and lower that brick wall of resistance to change. It’s always nice when you can actually see over the wall as a starting point!

At this point, if you are working in a highly functional team, you will hear noise – and lots of it! Encourage opinion, encourage debate and let your people be heard.   At the end of the day, if your team members don’t feel heard and are not invited to be part of the process they are not going to get on the bus, and even if they do they definitely won’t be enjoying the ride.  

Now, this is all well and good if you are in a highly functional team with a solid foundation of trust, but what if you’re not? One of my favourite business reads of all time is Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team (his Working Genius model is also worth checking out). 

Without these fundamental functional attributes, your organisation faces a long and hard road when making major changes. However, if you develop these 5 fundamental functional attributes you are paving the way for a successful transition.

1. Trust – This is the foundation that enables open communication. It helps a lot when the team trust each other and the leadership to make the right decisions for their people.

2. Conflict – Lean into it; conflict is healthy. Let people be heard, but don’t be confused about the difference between listening and hearing; they are vastly different.

3. Commitment – Without clarity and closure it is difficult for people to commit. When people understand what they are committing to, and more importantly, why they are committing to it, it’s a whole lot easier getting them on board with change.

4. Accountability – Creating a culture of accountability – not just as a leader to your team, but from team to team – means that if the ship is moving in one piece then we will get to the next port.

5. Attention to Results – Revealing the good, the bad and the ugly show the people what is happening. Change is good, but sometimes the results aren’t. Don’t hide these, instead, strategically showcase all aspects of the change and encourage a lens of opportunity when looking at the bad and the ugly.

Having these fundamentals firmly in place pre-change will make this season feel like summer rather than a harsh winter!

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