Periods of crisis and change are the most stressful and challenging time for teams and their leaders. But you can make it through with productivity and morale intact if you are strong for your team with the right leadership attitude. By encouraging your team to think of change as an opportunity, you can quickly move your team from resistance with a past focus to commitment with a future focus.
“Everything that exists is already fraying at the edges and is in transition.”
–Marcus Aurelius, second century Roman emperor.
Moving Through Change from Past to Future Focused
Getting your team through change means leading them through a change curve: through denial, resistance, acceptance and finally to commitment. Adapted by Sue Stockdale from the five stages of grief, this four-step process starts with employees focused on the past of what was. But as employees learn what’s happening, they will move through the present and finally look forward toward the future of what can be.
The transition from resistance to acceptance of change is the hardest part to get through. But with enough information and time, you can get your team to see the present as it really is. As they go from resistance to acceptance, they will see the reality of the present in a sudden moment of clarity, almost like the eureka moment of creativity.
To bring your team through the past, present and future, follow these three steps advised by Robb Misso, co-founder of DMS and Austin Regional Manufacturer’s Association (ARMA).
1. Understand the Change
Whether the change is expected or unexpected, the first step is to understand what is happening. Before you go to your team, ask yourself about how your own experience with change prepares you for what’s happening, and use strategic assessment tools such as SWOT to assess the situation. By following SWOT analysis, you’ll have a clear understanding of how to counter employee objections of weaknesses and threats with the potential opportunities and strengths of change.
To help in this process, treat change as an opportunity in your own leadership style, even during stable periods. People react to events based on attitudes built up over time. Instill an attitude of opportunity in your team by always being open to questions and suggestions, but don’t make promises you can’t deliver on.
2. Understand Resistance
Once you’re clear on how the team and the business are changing, step into your employees’ shoes and try to think about how they will react. What are their personalities like? Are they generally open to new ideas, or is it going to take some time to bring them past denial and resistance?
After planning for how your team will react, go to your team and drive home what is happening. Be realistic and direct. Don’t pretend that things might be able to stay the same if they can’t. Don’t try to fight legitimate fears by lying. Getting resistance is better than letting your team sleep in a dreamland …