How to Lead a Team through Change

Lead Through Change

Many people say that change is constant. I disagree, I believe it’s speeding up! Here’s Twelve Expert Tips how to effectively lead a team through change.

Change comes in many forms and major change can often be difficult to accept. Where a change is significant it can trigger feelings of anger, denial and even depression. As a leader it is your job to effectively navigate both yourself and your team through this emotional minefield.

As a leader you have many hats to wear but when leading a team through major organisational change you have two key responsibilities. The responsibility to manage the impact on your people, protect their wellbeing and the responsibility to protect customers from any potential negative impacts of change.

Leading through change can be difficult especially when you’re also impacted by the change. Despite this effective leadership in change is essential to maintain the cohesion of a team. Here’s twelve expert tips how to lead a team through change.

1. Assess the Risks

The first tip how to lead a team through change is to assess the risks of the change to your people and the business. Think about how the change could impact different team members in different ways and their likely concerns and emotions.

Be prepared for negative emotions such as anger and worry whilst keeping your cool. People are the biggest factor in successfully delivering change so it’s important to understand and manage the people risks.

Think about who your key stakeholders are and what assurances could be offered which would bring them on-board. Always think win, win and look to create and emphasise the benefits for everyone in change.

2. Create a Plan

When you understand the risks in change it’s important to not only have a plan to deliver the change itself but also to manage the risks identified, particularly the people risks. Following a structured approach to leading change creates a strong sense of direction which will help your team come on-board more quickly.

Create a Plan
Create a Plan

Where possible share your plan with your team and the risks you have identified. Clearly however there is a need to be sensitive and share an appropriate level of detail.

3. Hold Regular Catch-ups

Our third tip how to lead a team through change is to hold regular catch-ups with your team to gauge how people are feeling and highlight any challenges or concerns. Major change can be an emotional rollercoaster and regular catch-ups will help you address any issues more quickly.  

A model that can help you to understand the emotional aspect of change is the change Curve. The Change Curve was developed in the 1960s by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to help explain the grieving process. Since then it has been widely utilised as a method of helping people understand their reactions to significant change and upheaval. See the Kubler-Ross Change Curve below –

The Change Curve

It may help to try and understand where each of your team is at in terms of the change curve but remember that everyone is different. It can also help to share this model with a team going through significant change to help them understand the different emotions that may arise.

By catching up with your team regularly you can assess where they are in the change curve and support them appropriately.

4. Get On-board

You can’t lead a team through a change that you’re fighting so our fourth tip how to lead a team through change is to get yourself on-board. We are all human so a change that causes an emotional rollercoaster for your team will naturally cause similar emotions for you too.

Being a leader through change requires you to lead and set a clear sense of direction for your team to follow. To help you do this focus on getting your own head in the right space as quickly as possible and really engage with the change process. The sooner you transition from denial to acceptance, the sooner your team will as well.

5. Track Progress

It’s important as a team to regularly review adoption and progress with the change plan against the team’s objectives. Try to consider what is going well and what’s not and take steps to address any gaps.

Involve the team as much as possible in these reviews which will help boost team engagement and collective ownership for delivering the change. Making the change implementation a more inclusive process will also support each colleague’s progress from resistance to acceptance of the change.

6. Hold People Accountable

Major change can be hard to accept but change is part of life. Whilst it’s essential to support a team through change it’s also vital to hold people accountable and set clear performance expectations.

A team going through major change is susceptible to unacceptable behaviours creeping in, especially where there are feelings of anger or resistance to the change. Do all you can to support your team but also be clear what is and is not acceptable.

The responsibility of every team member going through change is to protect the client or customer from the uncertainty they themselves may feel. Where conduct becomes unacceptable nip this in the bud as quickly as possible.

7. Communicate Clearly

Our seventh tip how to lead a team through change is to communicate clearly. Change can create uncertainty and this uncertainty can be much more damaging to team morale than the change itself.

When you are communicating details of a change or updating the team take the time to properly prepare and carefully deliver your message so that all are clear. By clearly articulating what is happening and why you can significantly reduce the uncertainty that can cause so much worry and resentment in change.

8. Set Objectives

Set clear objectives for delivery of the change within your team. Being clear what you are expecting from your team and what action is needed from them can help your team progress towards adoption of the change and keep everyone engaged.

Where possible you should involve your team in the objective setting exercise as this will help create an inclusive environment with a greater sense of individual and collective ownership of these objectives.

9. Listen To Feedback

Leading a team through change requires you to listen and adapt the plan over time. Listening to feedback from stakeholders and team members is a great way to understand what’s going well and what may need changing.

When you’re asked for feedback and someone genuinely listens this is extremely powerful. Not only can listening to feedback support change implementation it is an excellent way to boost employee engagement. Listening to someone without judging shows that you value their opinion and enables them to express themselves.  

10. Display Empathy

Major change can be an emotional rollercoaster for a team. Going through major change can feel like a very lonely place even when you are surrounded by people in the same position.

Catch-up with your Team
Catch-up with your Team

Empathising with your team is a great way to reassure them that you understand what they are feeling and can relate. Share your own thoughts and feelings and encourage them to share and open up.

When going through major change people will often withdraw, a great way to help them to open up is to share your own feelings and display genuine empathy.

11. Be Honest

Change can create uncertainty and you won’t always have the information people want. Our eleventh tip how to lead a team through change is to be honest. To keep people on side it can be tempting to over promise and to make reassurances you can’t truly be sure on.

Making assurances that cannot be delivered can destroy trust so whilst it’s essential to do all you can to reassure your team, always be honest and never make assurances you cannot deliver.

12. Celebrate Successes

Embedding major change can be a long and difficult road. A great way to maintain the team’s energy and focus is to celebrate successes along the way and give well deserved praise.

Celebrate Success
Celebrate Success

As you are tracking progress embedding change remember to celebrate key milestones and say thank you. Acknowledging and celebrating success reinforces momentum and positive behaviours and is a great way to keep a team focused.


I hope that you get great benefit from the information within this article. If you did you might also be interested in my articles – How to Achieve Anything and How to Get a Team to Perform.

Please feel free to share or comment on this article. Please also let me know in the comments how you get on and if you think we have missed any important tips in this article.

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Wishing you and all those you love health, wealth and happiness!

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