I need to guide my team through a big change that’s coming.

As humans, we have an innate drive for self-preservation. When we get used to things going a certain way, we find comfort in the routine. It feels safe and predictable and gives us a sense of security.  

When change happens, people’s first thoughts aren’t about the change itself or the reasons it’s taking place.  Their initial reaction is, “How does this affect me?” No matter how loyal an employee is to the organization or their team, it’s secondary to their own experience. The bigger the change, the bigger the impact on your people. 

So as a leader, what’s the best way to guide your team through an upcoming change? You find ways to represent the company fairly and directly while addressing your team’s concerns honestly and with compassion. Consider these suggestions as you prepare to help with the transition:   

Announce the change quickly.

Let your people know as soon as you have permission and try to do it with the whole team at once. You don’t want anyone to find out second-hand from someone else’s perspective. 

Take ownership as a leader.

Don’t say “they”—say “we.” You might be tempted to push off the blame for the change to management above you, but as a manager, your people see you as one of them. Be upfront about the hard stuff, but don’t badmouth anyone in the process. 

Focus more on listening than logic.

Once they hear that the change is happening, they won’t hear anything else you say. They’re too busy processing how it will affect them. Let them react, and then listen with empathy. If you try to reason them out of their emotions, it will backfire. Be completely honest whenever you meet with your people. If they see you as being honest and direct about keeping them in the loop, they’ll trust you—which is huge when dealing with change.  

Focus on application to their world, then involve your team in planning how to make it work going forward. “Here’s what’s changing—how do we apply it?” 

Use FranklinCovey’s Change Model as a resource for teaching your team how change works and how to process it. 

  • Zone of Status Quo—Where people were before anything changed. 
  • Zone of Disruption—Where people are right after a change is announced. Their emotions, work performance, and other factors are impacted because of fear and uncertainty. 
  • Zone of Adoption—Where people are after having a chance to process their emotions. Understanding exactly what’s changing and why, they start making decisions about how to adapt—which can still be confusing, frustrating, and overwhelming. 
  • Zone of Better Performance—Where people focus on new behaviors that are working and get greater results than before—which can be simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. 

Change is never a tidy process because it shakes the foundation people have come to count on. Shift your leadership focus toward an empathic, honest approach where you’re walking through the change with them, and you’ll provide a path through the storm.