They say “change is the only constant.” And somehow, we can never fully get used to change. Managing change has become our constant.

Our brains are constantly evaluating whether or not what’s happening around us align with what we want or expect to happen. Our brains encourage us to create patterns and stick to the usual way of doing things! No wonder we resist change.

Any new experience can create a sense of discomfort. In some cases, it affects our confidence. It makes us think that we’re not capable enough to handle the situation just because it’s new to us.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in organizations these days. As a leader, the responsibility often falls on you to help you team cope with these changes.

The way you communicate with your team is powerful. Understanding the different stages can help you be more intentional with how you lead your team through uncertain times.

Managing Stages of Change

Depending on the individual and the situation, managing change could look different. But in general, the stages that we experience with change are similar. We go through a period of shock, denial and resistance before we are open to exploring solutions and goals.

Stage One: Recognize the change, its impact and provide information.

In the first stage of change, your team may be in denial or shock. It is important to recognize the challenges that the change can cause. To help mitigate these feelings, managing change really begins before the change happens.

In this stage, prioritize providing more details on when change will happen, what to expect, how long it will last and possible actions that we will need to take throughout the change transition.

Stage Two: Explore thoughts and emotions around the change, especially things that have not been working well.

In the second stage of change, your team may experience defensive resistance. This often stems from fear of losing what we already have and the uncertainty that comes with the change.

In this stage, it is important to create a safe space for your team to express what they are thinking and feeling. Take the opportunity to have meaningful 1:1 conversations to truly get to know how you can support them.

Stage Three: Set short-term goals to manage immediate impacts of change.

The third stage of change is where your team is beginning to accept the change and consider options and actions that they may need to take to adapt. This is the time to set short-term goals to help manage the immediate impacts of the change.

Ask your team what their current challenges are, what their goals are in the next 1-3 months and how you can support them. As a team, identify available resources that can support this stage of the change.

Stage Four: Set long-term team goals.

In the fourth stage of change, your team is likely to have accepted the change that is occurring. They likely feel more ready to set longer-term goals.

In the next 3-6 months, what goals do you want to accomplish as a team? As you plan for your team vision, it is important to celebrate small wins. Additionally, prepare for potential further changes that will lead you back to stage one. It is normal to cycle through these stages during big transitions.

Leading Your Team Through Change

The process of leading a team through change begins before the change happens. As a leader, being intentional with how you communicate with your team is key! Focus on providing information, addressing thoughts and emotions and setting short-term and long-term goals will help your team accept and adapt to change.

For more tips and ideas, refer to this post on how you can have meaningful conversations with your team.