Leading effectively through change

There can be no doubt, that the best leaders have adaptability as one of their superpowers. They know how to lead through change effectively to ensure a smooth transition with high engagement and how to harness it to make their team performance stronger.

But ‘70% of change programs fail to meet their goals because we fail to anticipate the human factors, sources of resistance, and how to manage them’ (Harvard Business Review, The Neuroscience of Change). In doing this, we risk slowing the transition, leaving staff feeling undervalued, and at worst, fostering a culture of distrust and fear.

So it is worth, therefore, spending time understanding what the most adaptable leaders do when they successfully lead through change. How can we develop a strong understanding of self, our environment, and those around us that helps the most successful leaders to navigate their way?  What do successful leaders do to understand how best to support their team? And, how can we maintain our resilience when the going gets tough?


The world around us

Understanding what is happening in your markets, industry, and organisation will help you to anticipate and navigate change as you build a change-ready organisation.  Do this by reading industry reports, environmental scanning and maintaining relationships with others in your position within your industry. Your resilience in the face of change will be strengthened if you reasonably anticipate what is to come.


Self awareness

Understanding of self is the foundation of leadership and preparing for successful change is no exception. Consider:

  • How you can prepare yourself to be confident, honest, and authentic in your interactions.
  • How you feel about what is happening and how you are coping with the uncertainty that change can bring.
  • How you can share your feelings with others in a way that encourages openness and vulnerability but not fear.

It’s important to be aware of how you are feeling about what is happening because your emotional response will impact your words, tone and body language and influence whether or not you are creating optimism and inspiring engagement about the change or whether you are injecting feelings of fear or dread.


Connection with your team

As a leader, staying connected with your team and putting effort into maintaining a conversation with them will help them with change. Be proactive in instigating frequent meaningful conversations that are open, honest, and show integrity. A compassionate approach will help you build trust and show a positive desire to do the best for everyone.

Show empathy by considering how the team may be feeling and where their particular challenges might lie. Ask yourself what will be important to them from a work and personal perspective and how they might want to receive information about that.

Your team will need consistent support from you. This means you need to be ready to listen and to show that you understand change can generate a range of feelings from shock and denial to anger, frustration, and even depression. The support you show your team and how you communicate with them will help minimise the depth of the response.


Think about how you communicate

There are some clear and easy-to-follow- principles to help you with effective communication. During times of change and times of stability:

  • Get clear on the purpose of your communication and what it is you want to encourage people to feel, do, or think as a result.
  • When you share your change plan, ensure that you describe your rationale for your plan – the why, what, and how.
  • Be authentic and upfront about what you do and don’t know about the change.
  • Emphasise what is fact and quash what is just rumour.
  • Don’t be afraid to be open about your concerns too.
  • Give people the opportunity to ask questions and clarify what they don’t understand.

A sense of control over the processes involved helps with acceptance and buy-in as your team starts to view the changes as a positive and not just another thing to be dealt with. That change is necessary might be non-negotiable, but timing and detail could all be open for discussion.

Leading effectively through change requires foresight, authenticity, and empathy. By embracing these qualities and fostering open dialogue, leaders can steer their teams through change to emerge stronger and more resilient than before.

confident, honest, and authentic in your interactions
Confident, honest, and authentic in your interactions


Support through change

At Beyond The Barriers, we love change! Working with my colleague Hilary Coldicott, an experienced leadership coach and expert in change management, we support senior leaders to deliver effective, performance-enhancing change. Contact us to discuss how we can support you.

Published: Wednesday 8 May 2024
Written by: Anna Hemmings, MBE, OLY.