14 Guiding a Team Through Change

Lori Steinke

Guiding a team through change is a challenge all leaders will inevitably face.  A successful leader has the knowledge, communication skills, and determination to guide a team through collaborative change.

Knowledge is imperative for a leader to navigate a team through change successfully.  It is crucial to the success of a project for a leader to adequately assess and understand why the change needs to happen and how it will impact on the organization, the staff, and the customers.  A successful leader understands the importance of forming a team of people that contribute expertise and knowledge to determine the best possible solutions to adapt to the change.  This collaborative knowledge helps define what is necessary to prepare for, implement, and sustain the changes; it is the foundation on which the entire structure of the change plan is built.

The change plan guides the leader and the team through the inevitable challenges that will arise.  Taking the time to prepare for the change creates a clear plan of action and, with input from the team, helps to identify possible risks that can be eliminated or reduced.  Once the change plan is in place, a leader collaborates with the team to identify the steps to accomplish the objectives as well as create a timeline with completion dates.  Resources are then allocated to manage the objectives.   A leader must know what resources are available and how to utilize them best.  With this knowledge, a leader and the team have an understanding of what needs to be accomplished, by whom, and when.

Communication plays an important role in navigating a team through change.  Communicating vision for change effectively engages the team and gains trust.  Being open and transparent when communicating status updates or changes makes stakeholders feel trusted, and as a result, more committed to the outcomes.  Communication not only builds trust and confidence in the leader, it opens the door for input from the team, making individuals feel valued in their contributions to the change process.  Without communication, nothing moves forward.  Once a plan is created and a team is in place, it is imperative that a leader communicates the outcomes of the project, the roles of everyone involved, and who is responsible for each task.  A leader also takes the time to make the appropriate connections within the team as well as locates any outside resources that may play a part in the project.  This allows the exchange of any necessary information without having to involve the leader as a liaison.  Communicating expectations and responsibilities leads to team success when navigating change.

Successful leaders realize that constant and continuous communication is integral to navigating a team through change.  Regularly scheduled meetings keep the whole team informed of the progress of the project as well as any new developments that may have an impact.  These meetings also set up a timeline for any new action items that come up or as an accountability check for members of the team to make sure the objectives are on track.  In addition to communicating with the team members, it is important for a leader to regularly communicate the progress of the project with any other stakeholders that may not have a direct role in the change process.  Regular communication alleviates tension and builds trust in leadership.

Determination supports a leader’s endurance to navigate a team through change successfully.  Anytime there is change, there are challenges to overcome.   A leader collaborates with the team members to identify challenges before they can happen in order to prepare in advance.  Determination is important for a leader because it keeps the focus on the bigger picture and the objectives at hand.

Determination is important to push through challenges and continue to look for solutions to problems.  A leader is responsible to pull the appropriate people together, identify the issue, and lead the conversation to work towards a solution.  These situations may be addressing a previous solution that didn’t work or coming up with a solution to a new problem.  It is not uncommon to determine that a new solution is needed due to some discrepancy in the initial solution before and sometimes after it is implemented, however a leader’s determination will keep the team focused on the outcomes.

A Personal Case

A determined leader impacts the determination of the team.  Assembling the team can bring more ideas forward for the group to discuss and lead to alternative solutions.  Recently, this happened on a personal project at work.  I scheduled a group discussion to try to reduce the electronic file storage that is used to save merged documents.  Currently, there are two source systems, one of which is the new electronic health record that creates two separate packets of information and are then merged.  Initially, I was pursuing an option to have the new electronic health record pull in data from the other system through a location where it is being autosaved instead of merging the information after.  After discussing with the group, members from another application said they could do it, and that it only requires one upgrade to the system to implement.   This is an example of how determination leads to the solution of a problem through an unexpected source.

A leader’s determination is useful when dealing with the ongoing effects of negativity from staff that are resistant to change as well as team members that are feeling overwhelmed or overworked.  Change is difficult in many ways, and it is easy for staff in an organization to become negative about how the changes will impact them.  This negativity can spread quickly if not addressed.  Negativity also occurs within the project team when there are too many things going on over a long period and when an individual does not find meaning in their work any longer.  In this situation, it can become difficult for a team member to continue to be motivated and eventually will feel burned out.  A leader’s determination over time sets an example for dealing with change.  Determination provides a leader with the perseverance to confront these situations directly in a way that relates to the employee.

Challenges will test the effectiveness of a leader regularly.  A leader’s determination is demonstrated by how well the plan covers these challenges, as well as how the leader responds to and addresses any that occur after the change plan is created.

Change is inevitable. A successful leader uses knowledge, communication skills, and determination to navigate a team through the entire change process.  These fundamental abilities develop a foundation for collaborative change.


Change: A Leader's Perspective Copyright © 2017 by Lori Steinke. All Rights Reserved.

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