How to Navigate the Storms of Change
To steer teams through the storms of change, validate people's emotions, involve them in shaping the path forward, and celebrate small wins, so they feel progress amid uncertainty.
WRITTEN BY: ADAM DANYAL
Change can stir up turbulent emotions. When major initiatives reshape priorities and processes, even leaders who see opportunity in the transformation can feel tossed about by the winds of uncertainty. Like captains guiding a ship through choppy waters, we must steer people through the storm.
Our compass in rough seas is consistency - consistent vision, consistent support, and consistent messaging. Outlining a clear vision for the future gives people hope that better days lie ahead. Expressing confidence in our team’s ability to master new skills instills optimism that they will reach safe harbor. Communicating often why the changes are critical keeps everyone rowing in unison toward shared goals. As William Arthur Ward said, "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."
When winds blow fiercest, we drop anchor with core values. Reminding people of shared beliefs that transcend day-to-day operations - integrity, excellence, community - sustains their commitment to the organization and each other. We are all in the same boat, working to reach the same destination. As Marcus Aurelius noted, "The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in so far as it stands ready against the accidental and the unforeseen."
Change brings unpredictable weather, but we can prepare people for the voyage. Give them raincoats and life preservers - training, resources, and encouragement. Let them know they won’t be sailing solo; we are right there with them. Painting a compelling vision of the journey’s end inspires people to ride out the roughest waters.
With care and compassion, we help people navigate change. Not by controlling the winds, but by equipping them for the journey. Though rain may fall and waves may crash today, the skies will clear and reveal a brighter future. Together, we will weather the storm.
From our Leadership Bookshelf:
WRITTEN BY: JULIA DANYAL
When storms of change are brewing in our organizations, even experienced leaders can feel unsettled by the swelling waves of uncertainty. It is at these times that we would be wise to seek guidance from those who have navigated tumultuous seas before us. One such seasoned captain of change is Jeanie Daniel Duck, whose book “The Change Monster: The Human Forces that Fuel or Foil Corporate Transformation and Change“ offers sage advice for steering teams through turbulent transitions.
In The Change Monster, Duck personifies organizational change as a scary monster that can evoke fear and resistance in employees if not properly addressed. Drawing on her decades of experience leading major corporate transformations, she shares strategies to help teams confront, tame, and eventually embrace the Change Monster.
Takeaway 1: Validate people's emotional reactions to change. Allow them to go through the natural stages of loss, doubt, anger, and eventual acceptance. Only once these feelings are acknowledged can people begin to adopt a new mindset and behaviors.
Takeaway 2: Involve employees early and often in the change process to foster buy-in. They will support what they help create. Form cross-functional teams and task forces to shape the path forward.
Takeaway 3: Set clear interim goals and celebrate small wins so people feel a sense of progress amid the uncertainty. Short-term milestones build momentum and reinforce the belief that the organizational change can truly work.
By shining a compassionate light on the human dynamics of change, Duck provides practical ways to help employees come to terms with the Change Monster. With understanding, inclusion, and encouragement, we can guide our crew through the storm into calmer seas and sunnier days ahead.