Helping your team to deal with change

Change is something that we’ve all had to get used to over the past 12 months. Who knew that a global pandemic was going to come along and fundamentally change everything that we do so significantly? It’s changed everything. The way we socialise, the way that we relax, how we do our shopping and definitely how we work and run our businesses. As leaders we have an opportunity to help our teams to deal with change.

For a lot of people, the pace of change doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. If only because we now need to see how much of the behaviour that our customers and teams embraced during the pandemic “sticks” as a new long term way of life. Whilst during the initial stages of the pandemic, many of us were operating on adrenaline and our teams were doing the same, rapidly adjusting to a new way of life and way of working. But as the dust has started to settle, everyone wants to start to understand what this “new normal” means for them.

To help your team (and yourself) to deal with change and manage the new way of working, you need to be aware that change creates an emotional response in all of us. Some people are more resilient when dealing with change than others. And on top of that, our usual coping mechanisms (socialising, exercise, retail therapy, travelling) are not available in the same way that they used to be. You may be spotting that some people in your team are not as enthusiastic towards challenges as they used to be. Maybe some of your team seem a bit down and weary from the relentlessness of it all. Maybe some people are flat out not doing what you need them to do.

Kubler-Ross Change Curve

InĀ  this post, I want to share the Kubler-Ross change curve with you to help you to understand how some of your team may be feeling and what support you can provide at each stage to guide them through it and help them to deal with change.

The change curve is similar to the stages of grief. Which makes sense when you think about it because actually, when we go through change, there is a kind of grief for the old way of doing things that we were comfortable with. All human beings like to be comfortable and do things that we know. And any change, whether it’s enforced or voluntary forces us into a new and uncomfortable way of doing things.

There are 5 key stages to the change curve:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger/Blame
  3. Confusion
  4. Acceptance
  5. Problem Solving

It’s important to know that everyone goes through it at a different pace. Factors such as whether the change is perceived to be positive or negative, whether it was voluntary (e.g. Applying for a new job) or enforced (e.g. Being made redundant) can affect the amount of time people take to move through the stages. And people can move backwards along the curve if new changes happen or understanding of the situation changes.

As managers, there are things that we can do to help our team to deal with the change, so recognising the change curve and what stage our team are at will help. Below are some tips of things that you can do to help them move along the curve to acceptance and problem solving.

Denial

During the first stage of the process people might well try to pretend it’s not happening or deny that the change needs to happen at all. A desire to carry on as before and try to block or prevent the change from happening. To help your team to overcome this stage in the process it is important to provide them with as much information as possible and be clear that the change is happening. For example, if a necessary change in your business is a restructure of job roles then provide as much information as possible to each individual about which roles are available, whether they will need to apply or be moved, whether they have any opportunity to decide what their new role looks like, or what the timescales are likely to be.

Anger & Blame

Once people move past the denial stage, they often move into a stage of being angry and placing blame. They now realise that the change is necessary and that they won’t be able to prevent it, but they can’t yet see the positives for them and may feel victimised. Again, providing as much information as possible about the reasons why they need to go through the change and why it is ultimately believed to be the right next step for the organisation (and the individual) will help them to move through this phase.

Confusion

In the third phase team members may become confused or depressed. They understand that something is happening but may believe that they can’t do anything to influence it or are resolved to the idea that it won’t be positive for them. At this stage, as managers, it’s our job to provide support to our team members. Allow them to ask questions and answer them as best we can. Allow for their emotional responses and give them space to deal with them if they need to. Continue to provide information with clarity so that they can process what is going on. Ask them what support they need and be accommodating where you can.

Acceptance

In the fourth stage, our team begin to realise that the change is happening and start accepting what will happen, rationalising it in their mind and working through what it will mean for them personally. They start letting go of past ways of working and comfortable norms and start thinking about what the future could look like. At this point it’s helpful for you to start providing direction and continue to support them. As their questions move away from the why’s and into the what if’s allow the curiosity and guide them in the right direction.

Problem solving & Integration

The final stage is when your team have fully accepted that the change is happening and move into looking forward and finding solutions that work to make themselves, their peers and the business to be successful. They are raising problems and looking for solutions to them. At this stage you can continue to provide them with direction and support prioritising the different issues that come up. Help them to establish a new way of working and routines to integrate the changes into business as usual.

Conclusion

As I said at the start, people will go through the process at different speeds and may slip backwards as new information comes to light or new understanding of the situation becomes apparent. That’s ok and you should be braced to deal with it. Going through change is a time for leaders and managers to show compassion and empathy whilst being clear on the situation and what needs to happen.

If you’d like more resources to help you and your team to deal with change, take a look around the tools and resources section for specific workbooks and exercises that you can do with the team to help them to recognise what support they need. Remember that all of these resources and more are included within the membership.

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