How to Lead Your Company through Important Transitions

December 13, 2013 | Roger and Susie Engelau

Let’s face it. Change is a difficult, but inevitable, part of life—and business is no different.  If your company is going to succeed over the long term, it has to be able to adapt to ever-evolving market conditions, competition, regulations…the list of possibilities goes on and on.

It’s one thing for you, as a business owner, to declare that change is necessary.  It’s another thing entirely to get your team on board.  If your people are unable to adapt, your progress will grind to halt, and the very viability of your company may be threatened.

That’s why learning to lead through change is one of the most important skills any entrepreneur can master.

Here are my guidelines on how to lead through change…

  1. Start with trust. If you’ve built up trust during the small changes, then it’s easier to implement big changes. Always demonstrate that you have their best interests at heart.  Master the art of servant leadership.  This will create an environment where they’re  more likely to follow you during times of uncertainty or adversity.
  2. Focus on people’s needs. Understand that change can be very scary for people, and it may cause behavior that seems out of character.  One of my clients recently implemented some rather sweeping changes and the management team was angry.  One guy was sullen and non-responsive, another woman was dragging her feet and even sabotaging the change activities. Change is emotional and there’s no way around that. These sorts of problems manifest when people are afraid and have unmet emotional needs.
  3. Learn the five stages of grief.  To manage change from an emotional standpoint, learn the five stages of grief and help your team through them.  The five stages are: Denial, Anger, Depression, Search for Solutions and Acceptance and Hope. Every time there’s a change, individuals will go through these stages. You can’t skip a stage. The trick is helping your people get through all five as quickly as possible. Expect your team to go through each of these stages to one degree or another.
  4. Communicate effectively depending on your employees’ stage. Moving your team through the stages requires honest and straight-forward communication—and lots of it. When and how you approach them depends largely on the stage they’re manifesting.  For example, when you break the news initially, you might be tempted to “sell them” immediately on the benefits of the new plan.  But if they’re still in the anger stage, this will come across as disingenuous and inflexible.  Instead, encourage them to express their feelings and be heard before you move to solutions and implementation.

Change can be difficult, but as you demonstrate solid leadership skills, you can move your team through transitions both large and small.

What about you?  Do you have any tips and tricks to leading through change?  Share in the comments section below!

P.S. Download my 1-page Leading Through Change Guidesheet for free.