Manage your Team Through Change

The undeniable fact that we are currently in a recession is affecting us all. Organisations are concerned about the increasing costs of materials and the impact on consumer spending. Furthermore, staff are concerned about the rise in fuel bills and the cost of living. Everyone is asking, will it get worse, how long will it last, and how will we cope? And also, how do you manage your team through change?

The answer is to find smarter and leaner ways of working and living, but both involve change. And for many, change is difficult, frightening, and risky. However, standing still and ignoring what is happening around us is a recipe for disaster. It is important right now to feel that we have some level of control, and so we need to see change as positive, proactive and a way of fighting back.

Our Response to Change

The Kubler-Ross change curve sees us move through different emotions as we respond to change, eventually leading to acceptance. The model below shows how these changes affect our morale and productivity at work over time. The key point here is that people do not always go through the model in a linear fashion – they can start anywhere and even go backwards through the stages.

Emotions about change are experienced differently by different people. Attending to those concerns can make the transition smoother. As a manager, it is important to help others through the change so that people do not spend too long at each stage and are able to move forwards.

How do I manage people through each stage?
Stage 1 – Denial

Your company has just announced cost cuts and changes to processes. The team are naturally in shock, and some are even saying that it won’t happen. The uncertainty that this creates will have a massive impact on morale and motivation and will derail productivity.

This is the time for open communication. There will be lots of questions that need to be answered honestly. Failure to communicate effectively at this stage will cause misunderstanding and mistrust. Encourage people to talk about their feelings and help them put them into perspective. Talk about the benefits of change, what’s in it for them, and create a vision of what things will look like afterwards. Working together to build a plan to achieve the vision will encourage ownership and commitment.

Stage 2 – Resistance

People’s reluctance to change is based upon their unwillingness to give up what they know and feel comfortable with and exchange it for potentially tricky situations. This resistance is contagious, so it is best to work with individuals to contain it. Listen to individuals’ fears, uncertainties and doubts and provide reassurance to build confidence. Recognise that ‘I won’t’ often means ‘I can’t’ so provide encouragement, coaching, and praise. Look for small ‘wins’ to celebrate to keep the individual moving forward.

Stage 3 – Exploration

At this stage, people are willing but still cautious so take things slowly. Don’t overwhelm them. Provide lots of support and encouragement so that they don’t slip back into resistance. Focus on the goals and stick to your plan but provide people with more responsibility as their confidence builds. Collaborate to solve problems and involve them in decision making to build their commitment.

Stage 4 – Commitment

Now is the time to celebrate, you made it!  However, accept that there may still be setbacks, so stay on the lookout. As people are also trying to cope with personal struggles right now, these will continue to have an impact, so your support and reassurance is important. Finally, acknowledge that any further changes will require the same transition and actions.

In conclusion

By keeping communication open, building trust, showing empathy, and giving lots of support, you and your team will come through this unsettling time stronger than ever. You can effectively manage your team through change! If you would like to learn more about this topic, please take a look at our Leading through Change and  Change Management courses.