For Managers


Leading Through Change

Change happens. There are some things you can do as a leader to help your team navigate change successfully, ensuring your team continues to thrive in spite of change.


Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, once said, “The only constant in life is change.” When you really think about it, nothing remains the same. Everything is always changing in one way or another. This is especially true where businesses are concerned, and if organizations aren’t changing—and even embracing change, their chances of survival can plummet. 

But if change is a given, why can it be so difficult? 

Often, people think they might lose something they value: Roles, responsibilities, compensation, benefits, position, or even their job. Or they might feel some insecurities about their ability to adapt to any changes. Or they might be afraid of the unknowns ahead. Because no matter the change, it can be full of unknowns. Change can throw us out of our comfort zones, which can often feel like anything but comfortable.

What types of changes might managers face? 

While there are many different changes that businesses can face, they can be grouped into four main categories: Operational, technological, strategic, and mission-related. As a leader, it’s important to understand each type of change so you’ll be better equipped to lead your team through any changes.

Organizational changes: These types of changes can be the hardest for employees as they can involve anything from personnel changes within the team, to company-wide reorganizations, to layoffs. According to Gartner, these types of changes are quite common, with many businesses experiencing five major organizational changes since 2019, and 75% of companies in this same study are expecting to make additional organizational changes in the next three years. 

Losing a job can be devastating, so any organization-focused announcements can cause fear within the team, even for those with the most secure positions. And if you’ve ever suddenly been told you have a new boss, especially when you had a great relationship with your old boss, change can be difficult since no two leaders lead alike.

Technological changes: Depending on the level of technological expertise of your organization, technological changes can be daunting, welcome, or both. Since technology is constantly changing, and being on the cutting edge technology-wise can be a key to survival for any business, these types of changes are to be expected. 

Strategic changes: These types of changes involve how a company does business, and this can involve anything from creating new products, to targeting new demographics, to how the business is run day-to-day.

Mission-related changes: Sometimes companies have to change their purpose and/or focus to better serve their clients and even to survive in some cases, and this is a normal occurrence in many businesses.

Keep in mind that one change can sometimes be felt in multiple categories, potentially increasing the fear and anxiety experienced by both leaders and team members. For example, layoffs affect the organization, but often, the mission and structure of the company can be impacted as well. Technology changes can potentially affect personnel needs and strategies. 

What are the benefits of change?

While change can be difficult for all those involved, it can also be beneficial if viewed in the correct perspective by both leaders and employees. Here are 3 of the ways change can actually be a good thing for an organization and its employees:

  • Encourages adaptability. If the past two years taught us nothing else, it was a colossal lesson in the importance of adaptability. Due to COVID and the almost instant need for teams to work remotely, companies had to embrace technology, policy, and structural changes that allowed them to continue as normally as possible, keeping many from going out of business and allowing many employees to remain working. Any type of change compels those affected to either adapt or potentially get left behind.
  • Inspires innovation and creativity. Since there are so many unknowns associated with change, it can force leaders and employees to think outside the usual box, which can lead to higher productivity, cost savings, improved processes, better time management, and increased job satisfaction overall. Innovation and creativity are crucial for implementing change effectively, benefitting the organization now and into the future. COVID is a powerful example of embracing innovation and creativity, as many COVID-related changes have continued to benefit companies even as life has returned to more of a pre-COVID normal.
  • Offers new opportunities. Change can bring about new opportunities to increase knowledge, growth, roles, responsibilities, and even new positions and promotions for employees. For those with a growth mindset, change can fuel the desire to explore new options, learn new and improve present skills, and get closer to career-related goals.

Do you have a Growth or a Fixed Mindset? Learn more here.

7 Tips for Leading Through Change

When you’re a leader, you have a crucial role in helping your team understand, accept, adapt to, carry out, and even embrace any changes within the organization. Basically, you set the stage for how successful or unsuccessful a change will be. While these tips can overlap, when implemented together, they can ease any change-related fears and uncertainties, allowing you and your team to weather change in ways that can benefit everyone, no matter the change.

Be positive. As a leader, you set the tone for your team. If you’re stressed out or worried about a change, your team will feel and adopt that attitude. On the other hand, positivity can be contagious, and it can make a difficult change more manageable for all involved. Even if upcoming changes are difficult, sharing a positive vision of the future surrounding any changes can help your team better embrace change, keep productivity and team morale constant through change, increase employee engagement, and be more successful overall as a team.

Encourage communication. Even without any changes on the horizon, poor communication can wreak a substantial financial cost to companies as well as lower employee engagement, increase misunderstandings, decrease job satisfaction, lower productivity, and so on. Where change is concerned, constant, intentional, and effective communication can help alleviate any uncertainties and misunderstandings, give leaders space to listen to employees to gauge how they’re doing with the proposed changes, and open the channels of communication for employee input and feedback. 

How are your listening skills as a leader? Get some tips to help you become a more effective listener here.

Make a plan. Any change can be multi-faceted, and it’s common for unexpected roadblocks to appear, sometimes out of nowhere. So it’s crucial to put a plan in place ASAP to help you and your team successfully navigate any changes. Be sure to create short- and long-term goals for the change, set realistic expectations, and regularly review how the plan is going, making adjustments as needed.

Involve your team. No matter the type of change, it’s imperative to involve your team as much as possible, even when they are not the decision makers. What does this look like? It can be as simple as creating opportunities to brainstorm together as your team might offer ideas you haven’t even thought of that allow out-of-the-box thinking. Involving your team also lets them know they are valued and needed throughout the change process and beyond. Team involvement during change can actually increase the chance of success by as much as 12% based on one study

Provide resources. Many changes involve learning new skills, technologies, processes and procedures, and so on. Before any changes are implemented, have the needed resources and training available for your team, and then continually praise their efforts to step out of their comfort zones to successfully navigate changes. This can go a long way towards showing your team how they can positively contribute to the change. If a change involves layoffs, work with your HR department to provide resources to help employees update their resumes, look for new jobs, and apply for any benefits that might be available while they’re in-between jobs.

Be honest, transparent, and accessible. A lack of information can cause team members to feel more stress and anxiety, start looking for another position to get ahead of any potential layoffs—whether real or imagined, and increase the overall difficulty of implementing the change. Be forthcoming about the reasons for changes, make sure your team knows you are available for them throughout the change, and communicate regularly via meetings, memos, in-person discussions, or however your team communicates most effectively.

Continually cultivate a strong team culture. Change can feel unsettling for employees, but when a strong team culture is already in place, the foundation a strong team culture offers can go a long way towards navigating change more successfully. Another benefit of a strong team culture is employee retention, as 71% of team members are more likely to stay with the team even if higher paying opportunities can be found elsewhere. Change can be hard enough without also losing high-quality team members. 

Get 8 tips for creating a strong team culture here.

Changes in the workplace will happen. Leaders can be instrumental in helping organizations and team members navigate change successfully, ensuring both the success of all involved and the company as a whole.

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