8 Tips For Supporting Organisational Change

Like death and taxes, change is inevitable.

Yet despite its certainty, when it occurs we often find ourselves being dragged along by the scruffs of our necks.

In my coaching practice I see evidence of people and organisations resisting change every day. And I have learned there is a big difference between intellectual appreciation and experiencing it.

We all accept the need to catalyse necessary (albeit at times, tortuous) organisational changes, but when it comes to actually going through it, we can be left feeling like a row boat navigating rough seas.

Preparation can help, so here are my 8 tips for supporting your team through organisational change:

1. Communicate. Know your key messages, then repeat them to your team over and over again. When you’re certain they are understood, say them again. Sometimes we need to communicate the same message in different ways. To check for understanding, ask them to relay back what it is they think they have heard.

2. Listen.  In times of change it’s essential to provide a safe platform where people can vent and process information. This is a vital part of acceptance and moving forward willingly with change. Although we may not be able to change our circumstances, if we feel heard and listened to, it can help enormously.

3. Support. You need to feel supported as much as your team. Have your own support networks in place. What are your safe havens? Where do you go when the going gets tough? Who can you talk to? Leading through change is challenging. Your team will look to you for guidance, so do what you need to do to be resilient.

4. Reflection. If change is of your own making, it’s all good. Or at least, it’s easier, because it means you feel like you have more control over the situation. Unexpected (or unwanted) change can suck, big time. It’s a tougher pill to swallow. So ask yourself – is the change you are currently experiencing of your own volition? This doesn’t mean it’s not tough. But knowing the source of change can help to manage expectations of yourself and others.

5. This too shall pass. My incredibly wise mum gave me this advice when I was seven and her and Dad were splitting up and I felt so unbelievably sad about it. But there is wisdom in this four word phrase.  Even when you are in the throes of sadness, anger, frustration and hopelessness, knowing you won’t feel like this forever can sometimes be comforting.

That redundancy may lead you to an even better job.  That bad boss may teach you a lot about leadership and resilience.  So if you are experiencing organisational change you disagree with, know that.

6. Recognition. Decisions I have made when embroiled in emotion were rarely my best. Instead, my best decisions as a leader have been when I have recognised my current emotions, waited (which is, by the way, excruciating) and then moved into action. When I have sat on it for a while, reflected (even for a few minutes in some cases), I am able to respond, not just react. Making decisions from a position of high emotion rarely is the best way forward.

7. Change can be tough and involves loss on some level, even when the change is positive.  Know this for yourself and the team you are leading.  And if your organisation is less experienced in constant change (which is the new norm in case you haven’t noticed) then do not underestimate this point. Although change can be challenging, merely understanding that positive outcomes are often preceded by chaos is hugely beneficial in accepting the transition.

8. Control is everything. Viktor Frankl taught us we always have a choice, regardless of our circumstances or situation. Even if it’s choosing how we respond. Your team will watch and learn from your response, how you act, what you say, what you do. So remember, your attitude and response  is something that is within your control.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.

Before change occurs, know the tips above and share them with your teams. Sometimes change can blow us over like an unexpected tornado. At other times, it’s a gentle breeze that brings in a new order of things.  Regardless, learning to accept that change is part of life (for organisations and in our personal lives) can help us embrace it, rather than resist it.

Do you have any more tips for supporting teams and individuals through organisational change?

If this resonates with you, please share it.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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