Leading in transformation processes

When changes are imminent, managers often encounter challenges when dealing with their own teams. With transparent communication, a clear direction and an openness to emotions and possible resistance, successful leadership and support in times of change is possible.

Challenges for managers in times of change

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Companies and organizations are continuously exposed to change. Communicating these changes is one of the central and most challenging responsibilities of managers. It is not uncommon for managers to encounter fear, uncertainty or anger among team members, which manifests itself in active or passive resistance. Most people prefer the known and familiar. Changes turn habits and well-rehearsed processes upside down. Employees are quick to ask themselves why the change is necessary and what the consequences will be. As a manager, it is therefore helpful to prepare specifically for possible resistance and to help employees cope well with any changes. 

When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.
Chinese saying

Needs during times of change

There are various reasons why resistance can arise among employees. Frequently, it is fears and insecurities that lead to resistance. In order to guide your own team members well through processes of change, it is helpful to address the following basic needs:

1. Understanding meaning and necessity

Employees should understand the background to the intended change and why it is necessary and urgent.

2. Transparency and predictability

Transparent and early communication is essential to avoid uncertainties. As a manager, it is important to create as much transparency as possible and also talk about your own feelings and uncertainties.

3. Influenceability and control

Employees want to be involved in processes of change, even if it's just to get a general feeling for an innovation. This gives them a sense of agency and participation.

4. Orientation and security

Managers should be sensitive and attentive to where there are uncertainties. In this way, they can better respond to their teams and provide orientation through clear communication.

5. Clarity about goals

To counter resistance, it can be helpful to clearly formulate goals. If it is clear to employees why this change is important for achieving a common goal, trust increases.

6. Fairness and respect

When employees can ask questions and feel that their concerns are being heard, this conveys openness and respect. Especially when it comes to difficult decisions such as new team constellations or terminations, managers should pay attention to fairness.

7. Trust

In times of change, no promises should be made that cannot be kept. It is important not to lose trust in the manager during a process of change.

Key steps for leaders for providing guidance during times of change

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Allowing all emotions
Leaders should pay attention and listen. Emotions such as anger and fear are normal and often encountered during processes of change.
Orientation and communication
Communication provides security and orientation in an uncertain situation. In addition to the next steps, communication of goals is also important.
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Talking with team members
Sometimes there are team members who face negative consequences as a result of changes being made. Fairness and openness in discussion are essential.
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Your own attitude to change
Even as a manager, you don't necessarily want to support every change. Reflect on your own attitude to change and exchange ideas with colleagues.

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