5 Steps for Effectively Leading Through Change
How do you feel about change?
Given the current pandemic that we’re all living through, you probably have some strong opinions about change.
I once heard Seth Godin say that it’s not that we don’t like change. It’s that we don’t like what change does to us—it pushes us to a place of incompetence for a season.
We don’t like to feel incompetent. We don’t like to feel out of control.
We don’t like to not know how to do something.
But let’s face it, none of us know how to do a pandemic. We’re in new territory. It’s uncharted and uncertain.
This season has pushed all of us to a place of incompetence… into changes of entirely new proportion.
Change unsettles individuals and teams, yet change is necessary to lead well.
Whether you’re leading an entire organization through change or coaching a staff person through a transition, leading through change is a constant part of our life as a leader. Some 2500 years ago, Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher said, “Change is the only constant in life.” Seems he was right!
Here’s what I do know about times of change. Historically, change always produces something good in me.
It might not be something easy, but it will be something good.
I will learn more. I will grow more. I will change too.
As I’ve led through various seasons of change myself, there are five behaviors I’ve learned to adopt to guide me to lead change effectively.
5 Steps for Leading Change
1. Listen Well
When change is imminent, we can be tempted to either operate in denial until we’re forced to make a change, or we rush to get it over with as soon as possible. Either extreme robs you of the opportunity to listen well. When you need to lead through change, take time to listen. Listen for lessons from history. Listen to fears and concerns. Listen for the reason behind emotions. Listening helps you gain perspective that will equip to manage change in a thoughtful way.
2. Question Thoroughly
After you’ve listened well, begin to ask questions—lots of them. Particularly if you’re leading change through an issue that is new to you. Whether you’ve recently joined an organization, started a new project or are reacting to outside circumstances that are forcing change, asking questions is important. It will help you uncover valuable information about sensitivities, key players, historical nuances, etc. Questions will help you better understand the landscape and make more thoughtful decisions.
3. Evaluate Rigorously
Change is challenging. It’s tempting to make snap judgments or jump to quick fixes. Take the time and mental energy to evaluate the situation from all angles before hurrying to a decision. As part of your evaluating process, seek wise counsel from others who have either led through something similar or who can add a helpful perspective.
4. Decide Prayerfully
Once you’ve listened, questioned, and evaluated it is time to decide what to change and how to lead through it. Consider everything you’ve gleaned in the process so far and prayerfully decide how to move forward.
5. Direct Confidently
Finally, you need to provide a strong, clear, and confident path for change. Your confidence is drawn from the intentional process you’ve followed and the prayerful decision you’ve sought. Now you must direct change with the strength of vision and decisive action.
Taking the time to listen, question and evaluate before you lead change honors those you’re leading. It also equips you to be an aware and sensitive leader who earns trust and builds courage for everyone involved.
Leading change is not easy, nor should it be taken lightly. Change is emotional and stressful.
But this is exactly why you are in a position of leadership—to help set the course and lead others in the direction God is calling you.
Writer, Speaker & Leadership expert
Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker and leadership expert committed to helping others lead from their extraordinary best.