Leading Teams Through Change

For most people change is uncomfortable. Yet successful organizations are frequently changing and adapting to elements that affect and enhance their productivity and help them achieve their goals.

For those tasked with leading a team and helping others to facilitate change, this may mean employing a variety of emotional leadership skills that we discussed in recent postings here. As a change leader it is important to understand that individuals react, respond and transition through change differently.

According to the Personal Transition Curve, developed by John Fisher, a leading contributor to change management theories, there are 11 different degrees of reaction and phases an individual may pass through as they are coping with change: Anxiety, happiness, fear, threat, guilt, depression, denial, disillusionment, hostility, gradual acceptance, and moving forward.

It is important to provide support, training, mentoring, and coaching to successfully see individuals and teams through change. Change is a process that affects several aspects including organizational restructuring as well as dealing with attitudes and behaviors.

Leadership and change expert Dr. John Kotter devised his 8-step process for leading change.

Diagram of change management

Essentially the steps involved are:

Establishing a sense of urgency
It is important for the company’s management to be convinced there is a need for change. Without establishing a need for change things will remain at the status quo.

Creating a leadership team
This is a core group within the organization that can lead change and lend their authority to the activity of change. In essence, they then become the guiding team who will support and direct the path toward the new reality.

Developing a shared vision
A clear cohesive vision that is easily communicated is essential to help develop a strategy to address changes.

Communicating the vision and strategy
The guiding team can employ transformation by clearly communicating the goals and vision through seminars, presentations, and other ways to target the message and facilitate change.

Encouraging action
Obstacles will always arise as each individual is dealing with their various reactions to change. It is important to encourage risk taking. If key individuals within the organization are blocking the change, it is important to identify this and take action. By dealing with obstacles swiftly and fairly there is less chance of undermining the operation.

Creating short-term wins
It is important to set achievable goals that will move the process of change forward. Break the vision and path into manageable hurdles that will facilitate activity and movement toward the greater goal. A short-term win will allow people to earn recognition and rewards on the path toward greater change.

Building the Momentum
Be persistent in moving toward the overall goals of the change. Do not accept short-term wins as final change. Understand that implementing change takes time. It is not something that happens overnight and it is important to make sure that backsliding into old habits do not take place. Continue moving forward and do not declare victory prematurely.

Lasting Change
A successful change is one that is anchored into the corporate culture. As team members associate change with their own contributions, they will see it as part of the organization that they help build. Hence they will view themselves as being a part of the change and not just enacting that change as directed by their upper management and leadership.

By understanding the reactions individuals have toward change, and systematically leading them through a process of change, strong leaders can employ different emotional leadership skills and successfully facilitate change within their organization.