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Excelerate Consulting | Change Management Experts

How to Lead Teams Through Organizational Change

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How to Lead Teams Through Organizational Change

Strong leadership is one of the factors that result in successful organizational change. Not only must managers and change leaders navigate change themselves, but they must learn how to lead teams through organizational change while minimizing resistance and maximizing motivation.

This is not an easy task since individuals undergo personal transitions during organizational change and resist challenges to their assumptive world. Everything they know or think they know is challenged, including the expectations of their plans and future.

As a result, whether or not they view change initiatives as positive or negative, they may struggle to let go of the familiar and enter unfamiliar and uncharted territory.

How to Lead Teams Through Organizational Change

Whether it’s new projects, procedures, or even more significant changes like mergers, managers, and leaders must educate themselves on best practices on how to lead teams through organizational change. 

1. Understand the Stages

Employees are bound to go through different stages of psychological reaction in order to successfully complete personal transitions, and it is up to leaders to recognize how this will affect members and to successfully help them transition. In order to do this, they must recognize the different stages of psychological reaction, which include the following:

  • Shock
  • Denial 
  • Depression
  • Letting go
  • Testing
  • Consolidation
  • Learning and internalization 

By knowing what each stage entails, they can know what their team is going through and what strategies to apply to ease their transition. For example, by understanding what immobilization is, managers will know not to confuse it for acceptance of the change. Instead, they will understand their team may be in the shock or denial stages.

Additionally, understanding the stages will help them understand their own role in management. Because they will have known about the change before their teams, managers will understand they are much further along the transition. Insight into this will help them avoid poor communication.

2. Understand the Implications

Managers must understand the different implications of the changes, including the fact that individuals cycle through the stages at their own pace. Thus, organizational change and the reactions to it aren’t a monolith. Managers can lead their teams by understanding that individuals will respond to change initiatives in their own ways and successfully transition at different times.

3. Facilitate Employees’ Development and Progress

While managers cannot keep their teams from going through the different stages and struggling through personal transitions, they do have the ability to help. Change managers can facilitate their teams’ progress through the journey and by doing so, successfully lead their teams through organizational change.

Facilitation Through Change: What Leaders Can Do

Change managers can lead their teams through organizational change by offering empathy and support while also helping them understand why the change is necessary. Additionally, they can emphasize benefits, clarify individuals’ new roles, establish expectations, and involve them in the change process. The following are some of the ways managers can ease the transition through each stage.

1. Shock

To ease the initial shock that comes along with change, managers can ensure they prepare their teams for the announcement and create “a climate of receptivity.” Additionally, they can provide their teams with accurate and timely information as well as present opportunities for growth and involvement.

In addition to informing teams about the business reasons for change, it’s essential to discuss how the change initiative will affect individuals. Providing support and time to take in information during this time is also important.

2. Denial 

During the denial stage, managers should continue to repeat the message, engage with team members to demonstrate evidence of change, establish milestones, and provide updates to ensure teams have the latest information. It’s also helpful to minimize the time between announcing the change and the change is put into effect so people can come to terms with it.

3. Depression 

Change leaders can also take steps to help teams during the depression stage by providing support and creating an open forum for discussion. At the same time, it’s also constructive to point out other benefits, other opportunities, and ways team members can influence and exert control.

4. Letting Go

It can be difficult for teams to put the familiar in the past and let go of their previous roles. Change leaders can help by framing the change positively in terms of benefits instead of focusing on negative past practices. They can also ensure teams focus on the present by getting rid of symbols of the past, establishing deadlines, and creating new targets.

5. Testing 

This stage requires employees to test their abilities amid new situations. Managers can encourage experimentation and give teams the time and resources to take risks. Instead of reprimanding them for their mistakes, change managers can choose to provide feedback and support successes.

6. Consolidation 

In addition to conducting performance reviews, change leaders can recognize achievements, broadcast successes, and thus, aid their teams in building on successes. Recognizing and celebrating successes not only act as reinforcement but also make sure that the time and energy exerted by teams do not go to waste.

7. Learning and Internalization 

To help them internalize their new roles, managers can aid team members in reviewing their change experiences, conduct reviews of the change implementation, and give members a forum to share their experiences.

Summary and Conclusion

Learning how to lead teams through organizational change is challenging. Yet, this is a critical role that change managers must embrace in order to ensure a smooth transition. Resistance is common and all teams must go through the stages of psychological reaction.

It’s up to change leaders and managers to provide timely information, communicate effectively, encourage growth, and support their teams’ facilitation through every stage of the process. It’s only then that change management succeeds and organizations can thrive.