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Best Ways for Leading a Team through Change in the Workplace

Advice for helping employees deal with change in the workplace

By Ogbe Airiodion and Francesca Crolley

Published on Airodion Global Services (AGS)

One of the most important parts of any change project is knowing how to implement change within a team. Ensuring employees manage the change successfully is even more important than the change itself.

This is because staff resistance to change can derail a change project, negating any benefits you hoped to achieve from the change.

Companies go through change for a number of reasons. They may be improving the digital tools they use, adding a new way to serve customers, or cutting departments to reduce costs.

But no matter the reason for the change, change management for employees is vital because any change is going to impact how they do their jobs each day, either in a small or large way.

When you explain how to implement change within a team, it’s critical to understand that resistance to change is natural and to be expected. People are being taken out of their routine and asked to do things differently, which is bound to cause all kinds of emotions.

What you'll learn

In this AGS insight article, we’ll discuss best practices for managing a team through change successfully as well as answer the following questions:

  • How can a team leader implement change in the workplace?
  • How do teams manage change successfully?
  • What are some common reasons for staff resistance to change?
  • How do you address resistance when leading through change?

Every change project has to put employees and others impacted by the change front and center if it wants to achieve the desired results. This is why helping employees deal with change in the workplace is a key component of change management practices.

Implementing Change in an Organisation

When implementing change in an organization and asking how to manage a team through change, using a change methodology can help with best practices of how to manage the “people” part of the change.

Change involves both process changes in the way things are done technically and leading a team through change, so they know how to adopt the new behaviors. Successful change projects get both those parts right.

  • Managing Process Change: Involves doing assessments for your project, creating a change management roadmap, putting the change management tools, and other resources in place to make the change happen.
  • Managing People Change: Involves doing a stakeholder analysis and impact assessment, helping leaders with leading and managing change, and addressing staff resistance to change.

How to lead your team through Change

How to implement change in a team involves several soft skills, including excellent communications, the ability to empathize with reasons for staff resistance to change, and motivating a team through change.

Communication

When leading people through change, it’s important to be transparent about each step of the change and communicate throughout the project. Otherwise, employees will wonder what’s happening and most likely imagine the worst.

For example, if an employee hasn’t yet received details on training that will be done, they might fear they’ll be thrown in the “deep end” and just expected to know how to work with the new process.

Expecting & Addressing Resistance

You can’t explain how to implement change within a team without discussing resistance. Change resistance is inevitable, and seeking it out and resolving it is an ongoing part of leading and managing change.

Motivating a Team Through Change

A key piece of how to implement change within a team is the ability to motivate staff. Motivation can help with managing staff resistance to change and keep excitement and support for a project going.

 

Managing staff resistance to Change

When managing staff resistance to change, it’s essential to understand that resistance is very personal and will come from an emotional place. It should be proactively as well as reactively managed, as you’ll encounter both needs when leading through change.

One of the best methodologies about change management for employees when it comes to understanding resistance emotions is the Bridges change model.

The Bridges transition model discusses the emotions you need to be aware of when managing a team through change.

You can’t move past resistance or come up with ideas to motivate employees to support a change until you understand the specific objections a person has to the change.

Common Resistance Reasons When Leading a Team Through Change:

  • “I’m afraid I won’t be able to do the new process and may get fired.”
  • “Why do we have to change when everything is fine the way it is?”
  • “We’ve been through this type of change before, and it didn’t work.”
  • “I don’t know what this means for my job in the future.”
  • “We can barely keep up as it is, how can we handle being asked to do even more?”
  • “I just can’t see how this is going to work!”

Getting past resistance when helping employees deal with Change in the workplace

There are several ways you can get past resistance when understanding how to manage a team through change; these include:

  • Communicating the reason for the change clearly
  • Acknowledging the validity of the feelings before moving on to your answer to address them
  • Explaining when leading and managing change how the change will personally benefit them (i.e., tell them the “WIIFM” what’s in it for me)
  • Directly addressing the fear (i.e., if they’re afraid they won’t be able to perform, reassure them by about your training program)
  • Enlisting the help of a respected manager/colleague to help with leading through change

Explaining how a team leader can support Change in the team

Part of the answer to “How do teams manage change?” is by enlisting the help of leaders and change champions. These are individuals at all levels of an organization that can act as team leaders when it comes to driving change.

How to implement change in a team relies on much more than just the change management team. You’ll need to coach leaders and create a change champions network as part of your change management for employees.

How can a team leader implement change in the workplace?

Here are several things that these team leaders can do to help with leading people through change:

  • Stay optimistic about the change
  • Answer questions staff have about how to implement change in a team
  • Watch for staff resistance to change
  • Help with ongoing communications about the change
  • Walk the walk when it comes to how to manage a team through change
  • Help with motivating a team through change with rewards for milestone achievements
  • Reassure employees they’ll have the support they need during and after the change
  • Ultimately, how do teams manage change? They do it together, with people in each department recruited to help drive and support the change at the ground level.

 

Ultimately, how do teams manage change? They do it together, with people in each department recruited to help drive and support the change at the ground level.

Motivating a team through Change

How can a team leader implement change in the workplace successfully? Motivate employees to help prevent complacency about the change.

If there is nothing new to be excited about with a change project, motivation can become stagnant, especially for long-term change projects. Lack of motivation leads to problems managing a team through change.

It’s important when coming up with a change project strategy to always put in place ideas to motivate employees. This keeps them excited about the results the change will bring both to them and the organisation.

Ideas to motivate employees

When you explain how to implement change within a team, motivation is a big part of helping employees deal with change in the workplace. One of the models you can study that specifically addresses motivation when leading a team through change is the Kotter 8-step change model.

Here are several ideas for keeping people motivated when leading a team through change:

  • Create milestones that can be celebrated throughout the project
  • Reward individuals that help with leading people through change
  • Invite feedback from employees on the new processes
  • Communicate with progress updates to let everyone know what’s happening with the project behind the scenes
  • Celebrate wins with team events
  • Offer incentives where appropriate (i.e., overtime pay for helping with a change project task after hours)
  • Remind employees how they’ll benefit from the change

 

Conclusion: How to be successful at leading people through Change

Helping employees deal with change in the workplace can help you ensure you get the desired results from a change project. Organizations can’t change unless their employees adopt a new way of doing things.

This is why change management will explain how to implement change within a team in relation to managing stakeholders and guiding people through the change. Taking care of the people going through the change is key to leading a team through change, and having an organization benefit from a change.

Leading people through change means listening to and managing staff resistance to change, keeping employees motivated, and giving them reasons to feel positive about the change.

Understanding motivating a team through change and helping employees deal with change in the workplace will help you ensure that a change project stays on track and can overcome inevitable resistance.