How to Lead Change – Tip 1


Leaders have a huge role to play during significant periods of change.

Especially during times of adversity and uncertainty when some people naturally become apprehensive, worried and in some cases scared by what the future holds.

Change is often exciting; it produces opportunities and can develop an innovative and creative culture that is flexible and dynamic. This shift can also be challenging, often because it is forced upon us and we need to react to change rather than proactively drive it.

You don’t need me to tell you that we are living through very uncertain economic times. Being a leader in times of uncertainty is tough for a number of reasons. The main being the amount of change you have to deal with and the impact that has on the people you lead. This series of blogs aims to give you some tips to make the experience of leading through change an easier one.

Tip 1:  Understand how your people are motivated and what happens to their motivation during change

The first point is to understand why people react the way they do to changes within your organisation. The moment people hear the terms re-structure or ‘efficiency review’ they often think redundancy. People can move away from being motivated by all of the positives within your organisation and start focusing on what the change is going to mean to them personally. The sophistication of their motivational driver moves from the very positive ‘towards’ motivational factors of self achievement, fulfillment and growth to the negative drivers of protection and security driven by concerns and uncertainty about the future. Ultimately this puts a strain on the culture of an organisation because people start to think about themselves much more than the organisation as a whole. It is also unsustainable because performance will drop away as you won’t see the ‘discretionary effort’ you get from highly motivated people.

Changes in motivation drive a number of emotional stages during change. Understand how people behave at each of these stages, and you will be able to develop strategies to lead people through the process of change to a much more positive state. The stages of change are well documented and are based on work carried out by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. I have simplified them slightly although recognise we are all unique, so you can’t be too prescriptive about this. Here are the emotional stages of change and what you can do to help transition people through the processes as quickly and smoothly as possible:

The next blog looks at more ways to lead people successfully through significant periods of change.