05 Sep

5 change management strategies

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” – Albert Einstein


One of the most common topics I get asked to train and present on is change.  That’s because leading change is one of the biggest challenges for organisations and managers today.  And it’s relentless – whether through government policy, technology, legal issues or business needs, it seems to be a constant part of our management lives.

If it’s so prevalent and relentless, then to succeed as managers, it’s critical to be developing our change leadership skills.

How to deal with change resistance?

So let’s take a look at overcoming change resistance. This is when we find that the team are not complying or implementing what we’ve told them to do to get the change underway. It seems so obvious to us – so important – and yet they linger, they hesitate, and sometimes blatantly refuse to do as we ask.

Below are 5 areas we can start to improve for better change leadership.

Five change management and leadership strategies

  1. Start right, plan right
  2. Get the team onboard EARLY
  3. Communicate, Coach, Communicate (and repeat)
  4. Create a safe environment
  5. Actively use milestones and measures


  1. Start right, plan right

Planning is important. It makes the pathway clearer, assigns responsibilities, and predicts challenges. It guides us.

Key things we want to be planning with change are:

  • Vision for success. What does it look like when we have implemented the change? What are the end benefits or outcomes? Even if the change has been brought on by a higher power, we still need this or we will fail.
  • Pathway to success. How we are going to achieve our vision? What are the steps involved, the resources needed, the staff training required? What’s our communication plan? What are our timeframes? What roles and responsibilities are involved? What’s our feedback loop?
  • Assess ourselves and plan accordingly. I always recommend teams do a SWOT analysis before major change.  A SWOT analysis is looking at your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Strengths and Weaknesses tend to be internal and current. Opportunities and Threats tend to be external forces and usually are future related. Once you’ve done the analysis, you must discuss how you will leverage strengths, minimise weaknesses, capitalise on opportunities and eliminate threats. What actions will you take? This will also help inform your Pathway to success.

  1. Get the team onboard EARLY

Often with change, the managers discuss it for a while, mull it over, hopefully plan and then BAM, hit the team with it. It’s all sorted, ready to go. Now implement!

Well, this rarely works. Especially if we’ve had a lot of time to plan or think about the change as managers, we sometimes assume that because we understand it, and have a great strategy, that the team will instantly ‘get it’ and get on board. People as a whole are geared to resist change. It takes time to process the change and it’s not going to happen just because we say so. And it certainly won’t happen by just telling people what to do, and telling them once.

We need to allow people time to process information. And, as much as we can we need to INVOLVE, not dictate.

Real change is influence, not force.

We influence by connecting, communicating, coaching, involving.

  • Pre-empt that change is coming. (if appropriate). Try not to get people worried – be calm, paint a positive picture, assure them that they will be involved along the way, encourage them to come to you if they have questions.
  • Ask for the team’s input as much as you can. Once people start to input ideas, they feel like they have a say in what’s going on, that they have some choice, and that they are in some way taking ownership. People need to start to OWN the change. They start to own it when they start to talk about it – in a solutions focused way. Encourage input – “What do you think we need to keep in mind as we plan for this?” “Who needs to be involved in our planning team?” “What challenges do you think we need to cater for?” If you can’t include all their ideas, that’s fine, explain that from the start.
  • Have regular team meetings and ask for their thoughts, ask how they are feeling. Discuss progress – celebrate success, plan for challenges and identify solutions where issues occur.

  1. Communicate, coach, communicate (and repeat!)

We cannot understate the role communication will play in the success or failure of our change initiatives.

If people are fearful of change, or overwhelmed at work, they won’t hear about all of what you explain about the change. There is interference – from their own thoughts “I hate change” “Change is bad”, “Management are stupid.”, “I don’t have time for this.” Also interference from the way you deliver the message and how they like to receive information (written, verbal, visual, demonstration).

  • Have a communications plan. What will we communicate, when, to whom, and through which method? When will we repeat it and how?
  • Make your messages clear and concise. Balance your need to give lots of information, with their ability to process. Often, less is more.
  • Deliver messages through varied mediums, and try to include visuals. Mediums include presentation, workshop, posters, meetings, videos…
  • Repeat your messages.

The other part to this is coaching.

For change to work, you MUST be coaching.

At the core of successful coaching are great questions. So get curious! “What do you think we should do?” What is the first step you will take here?” How do you think we can address this issue?” “Who do we need to get involved in this?” “What are the issues from a patient’s perspective?” “What haven’t we covered?” “How do you feel this change is progressing?” And so on. Please coach.

  1. Create a safe environment.

Change often induces fear – whether people consciously recognise this or not. It feels uncertain, so it feels unsafe. Safety in the workplace is a normal thing to discuss. Yet we often don’t think about it for our team’s emotional safety. We often don’t realise that we in so many ways can make them feel unsafe – by talking harshly, by not sharing important information, by not thanking them for a job well done, by not assuring them we are in this change together, by telling them what to do without giving them some choice.

  • Encourage an environment that is open and honest.
  • Show empathy for how people might be feeling.
  • Support without judgement.
  • Celebrate progress, even before you see results.


  1. Actively use milestones and measures

We need to have milestones and measures planned from the start. Milestones are the key points during the change process (remember most changes take time). So it’s the steps needed or the critical timeframes that must be achieved.

  • Map milestones out from the start, communicate what they are to your team and provide timeframes.
  • Identify how you will measure success, the targets required and consequences of not achieving results.
  • Measure the things that are important for change success, not trivial things.
  • Track and communicate regularly, even f things aren’t going well! Involve the team in finding solutions to challenges.

These 5 change strategies won’t solve every issue you have, yet they are a good starting point in supporting the team. Remember, you need your team to get on board and your role as manager and leader is to help them do so.

engagingPOTENTIAL: facilitation, training, coaching, team development

Helping managers create extraordinary teams!

02 Jul

Managing and leading change at a team level

 “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!” –  Peter Senge

As a manager/supervisor and leader, you will have a role to play in managing change within your organisation. For some, this is a daunting prospect. Yet there’s no point hiding or avoiding your role – if you do, you could let down yourself, your team and potentially your organisation.

Primary influences of change responses

Understanding how people respond to change and the reasons for their responses is an important step in being a successful leader.

The way that people respond to change is often driven by  three very personal factors:

  1. Past experiences: an individuals’ past life experiences with change will shape their thoughts, feelings and attitudes about it and the way it is managed
  2. Values and beliefs: personal values – and subsequent beliefs – may impact response to change depending how the change (and they way it is managed) aligns or conflicts with these values
  3. Capacity and capability: an individual’s approach to the change can vary depending on their capacity to be involved in the change (do they have the resources?) and their capability (do they have the skills?) to implement or cope with the change

Human reactions: transitioning with change

Individuals will experience emotions throughout the change. Some people will move very quickly from being cautious or fearful of change, through to acceptance and into excitement. Others may spend longer being fearful, may experience anger and possibly even despair – sometimes emerging from this, at other times being resistant to move beyond this.

It’s important to understand that no matter the change, it is human nature to experience an emotional response, or a series of emotions over time. Managers must accept that everyone will experience the change differently and thus they need to be prepared to respond appropriately to the emotion being demonstrated or expressed at any one time.

The way you interact with someone experiencing anger about the change will be different to interacting with someone who is excited. Your message about the change may be the same – your delivery of the message and the support of the individual will vary. Empathise, explore and engage towards solutions with evident anger, frustration or fear. Encourage, energise and engage towards opportunities with evidence of acceptance, optimism and excitement.

A manager and leader’s role at the team level

Each of your team will respond slightly differently to change, depending on how it impacts them and the influencers above.

As a manager and leader you will need to understand the individual’s within your team (personality type and typical responses to change, key motivators, ‘de-railers’). You will also need to reflect on how they have handled change in the past (if observed) and explore how they are feeling about the current changes. Be aware that their current feelings will likely vary over time as they work through the change.

With this information at hand, you will be able to prepare and act for individuals and the team:

  • What communication might be appropriate – level of detail, frequency and repetition required, along with the medium or channel that you will use (face-to-face is usually the best option where possible)?
  • What support may be needed – coaching, reinforced direction, engaging motivational drivers, counselling (through employee assistance programs with professional counsellors)?
  • How you will handle emotions in the team, especially minimising negative impacts on each other e.g. if one person is not happy about the change and is causing unnecessary concern for others?
  • How you will keep people focused on their performance and results whilst still supporting them?
  • How will you manage your personal feelings and thoughts about the change and still lead in a professional, positive and supportive manner? What support do you need to be able to do this?

The critical thing is to stay engaged with your team members, encourage teamwork and positive support of each other, communicate effectively and often and lead by example.

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Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

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