Leadership during times of change requires flexibility, adaptability and kindness. Read these tips from Kristen Bower to learn to lead through change. 

Kristin Bower is a Leadership and Workplace Consultant with MyWorkplaceHealth and an award-winning Diversity and Inclusion expert. With over 20-years of experience, she is an outspoken advocate for a deeper awareness of mental health issues and is committed to helping organizations foster psychologically safe and healthy workplaces.

There is little doubt that we are in a time of great change. Every day we receive updates about this constantly evolving situation. It’s scary and unsettling. And yet all we can do is keep moving forward.

For those who are struggling to lead teams that are now working remotely, are in people-facing roles or in high-demand situations (financial services call centres come to mind) this presents a new set of challenges.

I’m not sure that inclusive leadership skills have ever been more important than they are right now. Not only do we need to consider things such as employee mental health, but we also need to do this while navigating great change.

To get some insight into leading through the change I asked my friend and consulting colleague, Steve Doherty of LightTrail, to share his expertise on this subject. Here are his thoughts and tips…

Leading Through Change

I’m often asked why people react to changes, whether positive or negative, in different ways. The answer is simply that we’re all individuals with different perceptions and experiences. Even when we’re presented with the same data, individual perceptions and interpretations differ. This triggers natural reactions based on personal experiences. Change is emotional, and how we react is individual.

As leaders, we first need to acknowledge our own state before focusing on and helping others – just like putting your own oxygen mask on first.

In the current environment, people are scared for themselves, their families, friends, jobs, livelihoods etc. These individual reactions involve emotions, and, you can’t control people’s emotions. This may manifest as passive or active resistance.

The key skill in leading through resistance is to listen – don’t try and solve the other person’s problem or persuade them to think of a specific outcome. With resistance management, it doesn’t pay to be right!

Tips to Lead Through Change:

  1. Expect a reaction
    People often say: ‘I don’t know why it’s affected me so much’, and criticize themselves for crying, laughing, or feeling moody. All these, and every other emotion, are normal in the face of any change.
  2. Go with the flow
    Resist and be rigid in the face of change and it will be a lot more painful. The secret is to be flexible and you can ride it out more easily. Think of yourself as a boat in a storm. Turn against the waves and they’ll crush you, go with them and they’ll carry you home.
  3. Hang onto the familiar
    If the change is big then keep up many familiar things as you can – and remind yourself of how much in your life isn’t changing. Wherever possible, stick to your usual routines, see people you normally see (use technology such as Skype or Zoom), and reassure yourself that not everything has to change just because some things have.
  4. Get support
    Don’t try to cope alone or keep your feelings to yourself. Talk about it, give a hug (virtual), a laugh, a cup of coffee and a bit of reassurance. Being brave doesn’t always mean managing alone, it may mean finding the courage to ask for help.
  5. Divide it up
    When possible divide bigger changes into smaller steps. When you feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the change, concentrate on the step you’ve reached, rather than the bigger picture.
  6. Know it will end
    All change comes to an end when the new circumstances are in place and become familiar to you. Every change, no matter how big, will end and you’ll return to a feeling of new normal. Keep this in mind when you feel as though you’re in the middle of a bumpy ride.

Overall, show that you care – your actions will speak louder than your words.