Transition, Change, Disruption, New Stuff: How to Lead Your Team Through

Change is hard. Maintaining the status quo can seem so much easier than pushing an entire system into the turmoil that change can entail. When it comes to running a successful startup or small business, however, embracing transition is vital.

It can be tricky to recognize the need for changes before it’s too late, but not responding when necessary can create performance issues in your team and feelings of stagnation within your organization. When transition is required, you have to be willing to make it happen — and fast.

The good news is that change doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Here are three approaches to easing the transition that have worked for me.

1. Prepare. 

Nobody wants to be surprised with a change, so readiness is imperative. Most failed transitions break down when the participants haven’t been adequately prepared.

Each team member needs to receive whatever preparation is necessary for him or her to feel comfortable with the changes being made. It can be tempting to limit your communication with team members until you feel more confident in your transition plan, but early transparency is vital for getting everyone on board.

If your organization has undergone previous transitions, ask those who were involved what elements were successful and what weren’t so that you improve on past initiatives. Then, map out the transition so you know each step the organization must take from start to finish. Think through who will be affected, who might have a difficult time adjusting to the change, and how best to prepare them. Decide whether you or anyone else in the organization will need more training or support in order to correctly execute or manage the changes, and arrange for coaching or further training as needed. Finally, prepare metrics for success so that you can communicate clear, measurable goals to the team from the outset, which will increase buy-in from the start.

Preparation and buy-in are especially important when your team is small or tight-knit. When I was transitioning from team member to chief relationship officer at Rocksauce, I spent a lot of time in one-on-one meetings, working to build understanding that not only did a change in leadership need to occur, but a change in organization had to happen as well.

2. Overcommunicate. 

Withholding details from your team members may feel like a good idea, but if you aren’t communicating your story about why and how a transition will happen, people who aren’t “in the know” will make up their own stories — and they will probably be negative.

Sixty-five percent of managers agree that open communication is necessary to navigating a major change, so be sure to speak with team members extensively and often. Be clear that you are prioritizing promptness in communication and that this may mean details will change as the process evolves and feedback is considered and implemented.

Be sure team members also understand how the change will affect them personally. Facilitate one-on-one sit-downs so you’re confident that employees are getting their questions answered and having their fears reduced. Ensure that concerns are heard; don’t just present changes and ignore feedback.

Once you’ve determined method, it’s all about the follow-through. Be sure every individual knows he or she can come to you with concerns, and once the message is out, state it several ways through several channels of communication.

3. Stay confident.

Women in the workplace are already equipped to deal with transitions; most of us regularly switch between home life and work life and all the roles those lives entail. You and your team will be well-equipped to handle whatever necessary workplace changes arise.

The key? Giving your team members — regardless of gender — plenty of warning that the transition is happening and providing them with steps to take so that they can help the organization meet its goal.

If you feel your confidence flagging, take some time to care for yourself. After all, if your well-being isn’t in the right shape, then how will you take care of your team? Exercise, eat well, stay hydrated, get yourself a pedicure or haircut, and get a full night’s sleep — and encourage your team to follow suit. Take deep breaths when you’re between meetings or whenever you begin to feel anxious. Self-care is a sure way to boost your confidence, preserve your stamina, and maintain a nimble attitude as you navigate change.

Flexibility is the lifeblood of today’s ever-changing business world. With preparation, communication and confidence, you and your team will be ready to handle each new change — together.

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