If you’ve ever been in charge of anything, then you’ve had the experience of unveiling a planned change and getting a less-than positive response from the team.

At work when change is proposed, most people immediately want to know three things:

  1. What does this change mean for me?
  2. Why is it happening?
  3. What will it look like when the change has been made?

Most people will feel apprehensive, perhaps even fearful, for a whole hosts of reasons. They don’t like change; it makes them feel insecure, threatens their autonomy and self-determination. It also threatens their comfort zone and, at best, they may be apprehensive or, at worst, resistant to the proposed change.

Change is hard

Change is inevitable – economic, environmental, sociological, political and organisational. Much as many people prefer the status quo, change is one of the few certainties of life. It’s important that we learn to be comfortable with and open to change, more change-capable. We start to accept and embrace making change when we are shown the advantages and reasoning driving the process.

It’s natural to be resistant to change but for a leader managing change is part and parcel of their responsibilities. Key skills are communication, creating a culture of empowerment and collaboration, and ensuring the team are engaged and committed to the big picture and the vision and values espoused by leadership. Equipping managers with some level of coaching/mentoring skills can only be helpful.

Faced with change, your team may be worried and that can be distracting and demotivating. As a leader, try to help them cope and adapt to change positively; you can best do this by encouraging them to stop worrying about inevitable change and start looking for ways to benefit from the opportunities inherent in change.

Mindset shift

Some people get “stuck” in a negative mindset about a change and refuse to support it. Sadly, managers and leaders aren’t skilled at helping people understand change and the need for it. There’s a well-known statistic from McKinsey & Co that 70% of organisational change efforts fail, and the main reason for that is lack of management support and employee buy-in.

Learning to accept and embrace change is about a mindset shift. Once we learn to look for the advantages in change, to explore that the rewards of making the change may bring and accept that the change could become the new normal, then we are willing to operate in the new ways the change requires. The key is to look at the proposed change and find the positives, how to take advantage of the process and be part of a successful outcome.

How can you support your team to make the mindset shift that will allow them to become more change-capable?

Make it meaningful

Your team want meaningful information. Too often, organisations fail to provide this and that may simply increase the sense of risk and disempowerment. It’s helpful to communicate a simple summary of the change outlining:

  • What is proposed;
  • Why it’s happening;
  • The better future you’ll have, after the-change.

Be realistic, acknowledge the uncertainty, time and effort the change will require and let people know how you’ll support them through the process. Answer questions; we’re wired to believe that most change is dangerous, we generally only shift to a more neutral or positive view when we get the information to help frame it differently.

Reassuring people about what isn’t changing as well as what will change helps; quite often, even a major change won’t have much impact on people’s key priorities. Afford your people information and, if possible, choice during the change and you’ll reduce their fear and discomfort and improve the likelihood of engagement and buy-in.

Support and lead

Don’t ignore the concerns of team members worried by proposed change; communicate and address those concerns so that they understand and process the mindset shift that makes the process more palatable. Offer support – training, tools, demos, simulations, mentors as appropriate.

If you give people support at the start of a change initiative, they’ll be more likely to engage. As a leader, if you understand the initial fear and hesitation around change without assuming it means that people are “change-resistant” or “negative” and support your people then, you’ll be much better placed to garner understanding, acceptance, and adoption of the proposed change reasonably quickly.

You’ll also be helping your people to become more change-capable: building the skills and habits of mind to approach change in a more neutral, open way, and better able to navigate all the changes that will arise in the modern workplace.

Support your team through the process from anxiety and disorientation to peak performance.

Liz Sebag-Montefiore

Liz Sebag-Montefiore is a Co-Founder and Director of 10Eighty. With over 15 years of business experience, I have an extensive and impressive blue chip client base. I have worked with numerous firms working in partnership with the client to understand their needs. My current role involves managing relationships with clients, developing new business, and coaching individuals in their career. I really enjoy meeting new people and have strong client relationship and networking skills. I am passionate about coaching as a means to motivate individual performance and believe that proactive career coaching will set direction, bolster employee engagement and self-confidence.


Change and why we should embrace it

Change is inevitable, and even when it’s a welcome change, it can be difficult to handle. We discuss why it’s important to embrace change.

Find out how we can support you and your people