3 Ways to Embrace & Lead Change

embracing change as a leader

Change is inevitable. We all know it. And we have certainly all lived it these last few years. When we think about change that occurs in the workplace—whether it is leadership changes, a recent acquisition/merger, or company-wide layoffs—it is even more challenging because often it is not within our realm of control. The change is often happening to us–whether we like it or not–thus increasing our attempts to resist the change. In fact, it is this exact resistance to change that can be the most decisive element to whether or not the change will prevail or fail. So, why do so many organizational changes fail? They fail because they do not address the human-centric elements of leadership.

How does Human-Centric Leadership impact change?

Human-Centric Leadership is the big buzz word right now.  When thinking about how human centric leadership impacts change, it all boils down to considering the emotions of everyone impacted by the change.  As we all know, even the most well-intended change that makes perfect sense on paper can still be detrimental to the organization if everyone involved is resisting the change.  This doesn’t mean that the plan is wrong, it just means the approach needs to take into account the unique perspectives and emotions of all of the stakeholders impacted.  This emotional intelligence skill of “social management” is the key to human centric leadership and it is crucial when rolling out any new change.

Why do we resist change?

It’s human nature to resist change.  We naturally gravitate toward things that are predictable, comfortable and safe.  It is part of our basic emotional needs to seek shelter that is safe and secure.  Blame our biology, but the cozy situation that we are currently in is much more certain than the unknown situation up ahead.  But what if the new situation up ahead is better?  What if it is even more safe and secure?  How could we possibly resist that kind of change?

This is where we have to outsmart our biology.  In order to do this, it helps to lean into the discomfort of the emotions the change is inducing and then determine the rational basis for each emotion.  For example, if the new change in leadership has you worried and anxious about losing your job, create a plan for each potential course of action including the worst-case scenario.  This exercise alone will help you feel more prepared and more in control regardless of the outcome.  But what if you are the one driving the change?  How can you help those around you?

How can you help lead the change?

  1. Think Human-Centric: : If you are in a leadership role and you are faced with leading an organization change, the first thing to do is consider each and every person involved.  Think through how each person would react to the change from their unique perspective.  This crucial component of emotional intelligence allows you to be socially aware of your employees.  For instance, if you are considering moving the office environment from hybrid to in-person, consider each group of employees.  How will remote employees handle the change?  How will managers who have both types of employees handle the change?  If you can proactively address this “human factor” of the change, you will embody true human-centric leadership that will mitigate the inclination toward resistance.
  2.  Get out of the gray zone: Sometimes the “gray zone” of uncertainty is even worse than the actual change.  If you’ve ever heard the analogy of “ripping off the band-aid,” it is referring to the slow agonizing pain of a drawn-out process versus a quick process that allows people to pivot and move on.  For example, if rumors are flying around for months about a potential merger, this can create unnecessary fear and trepidation for employees.  Instead, immediately address the rumors by outlining the possible options and a concrete timeline for decisions.  When employees feel armed with information, they can get out of the gray zone and stay focused and productive until the change is made.
  3.  Circle Back: After any big change, just go ahead and assume that your people are struggling with it.  Consider having a townhall where management can answer questions.  You could also mandate that all managers meet with their employees one-on-one to share thoughts and concerns.  This is a time to ask questions, listen and help provide reassurance.  After a few weeks go by, add another check-in to the calendar to ensure everyone is continuing to positively embrace the change.  These check-ins alone can help reassure your employees that you care about the impact they are experiencing.

Ultimately, change is bound to happen and it can often be a very positive event in our lives.  However, humans have a natural predisposition to resist it.  If you are the one going through the organizational change right now, try taking all of that emotional energy that is fueling your doubts and fears of the unknown and instead channel that energy into productive planning.  This can include outlining the pros/cons of the change, listing out all of your options if the worst-case scenario were to take place and arming yourself with factual information that can aid you in the process. 

If you are the one leading the organizational change, consider tapping into your emotional intelligence skills of human-centric leadership to give your employees the best change to embrace the change in the short term and long term.

These strategies were based off the resiliency and change management training programs at TalentSmartEQ. To learn more about corporate training programs on emotionally intelligent strategies to help with resiliency and change management, please contact us.

By: Taryn McKenzie, EVP of Client Solutions for TalentSmart EQ.  Taryn is a guest contributor for our blog and has been leading teams for over 20 years in the executive training space.  For more information, please check out additional resources at: www.talentsmarteq.com.

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