Leading Through Change: Tips for Navigating Transition and Uncertainty

There’s no avoiding change and uncertainty in any area of life, including business and the workplace. Instead of resisting change and being paralyzed by indecision in business, you can stay one step ahead by preparing and optimizing for it. This can be done by learning how to lead yourself and your team through transition and uncertainty. It may not always be easy to adapt to change and thrive in uncertainty, but with the right leadership and skillset, any organization can manage times of change and come out stronger on the other side. Leading through change isn’t often prioritized since many people don’t anticipate it or keep it at the forefront of their minds.

Leaders can feel stuck, ill-equipped, or overwhelmed with challenges, changes, and uncertainties that come with their roles. This makes learning and training how to be a successful leader through change even more important. 

If you want to set yourself, your team, and your organization up for success through any phase of business, learning how to prepare for, manage, and lead people through change is crucial. In this article, we’ll go through ways you can better navigate transitions and maintain certainty as a leader to help your organization. 

Why is Leading Through Change Important?

While times of change are inevitable and stressful for a team and organization, a strong, courageous, and empathetic leader can help employees and businesses move through change successfully and with a lot more ease. Proper leadership can lead to less employee worry, more productivity, better communication, and more straightforward adaptability. 

A strong leader can also help their team remain positive and focused on the goal at hand despite challenges and distractions that may accompany changes and uncertainty. Shaky leadership can adversely affect productivity and morale. Leaders who develop skills and strategies for navigating change have a stronger chance of successfully leading a team through transitions with a positive outcome. 

Embracing Uncertainty 

While change is inevitable in business and the workplace, most people desire to maintain a level of certainty. However, 100% certainty isn’t always possible, and leaders and staff need to learn how to feel comfortable and confident rather than fearful and buckle under the pressure of the unknown. 

It’s completely normal to feel risk or stress when change comes up. However, it’s important to learn how to overcome those feelings and help others overcome them to ensure learning, growth, and positive performance. Rather than avoid the uncomfortable feelings that come with uncertainty and change, acknowledge and embrace the discomfort as a normal part of the growth process and know that it’s only temporary. 

Instead of operating from a need to “know it all,” leaders should shift their mindset to a “learn it all” viewpoint to help ease the discomfort of leading through change. This takes the pressure off needing to have all the answers and allows leaders more seamlessly carry teams through times of change.

Assemble a Strong Leadership Team

Before a significant change or during times of uncertainty, it’s helpful to evaluate the current leadership and identify any necessary adjustments to ensure leadership is strong enough to navigate it successfully. There are multiple ways an organization can assemble a rock-solid leadership team for times of change:

  • Creating a change management team and plan with people who are experienced with career change and adaptability
  • Provide specific leadership training to management on navigating transitions and uncertainty for themselves and their teams
  • Bringing on consultants that specialize in transition management to make the process smoother and more efficient

Let Go of Perfection

In a business landscape where change and uncertainty are inevitable, aiming for perfection is futile and can hinder leadership. Instead, aiming for progress over perfection in times of change can make the journey much smoother and stress-free. A progress-focused mindset will allow leaders and teams to continually course-correct as needed rather than getting stuck on details and perfectionism. 

To let go of perfectionism and adopt a progress-focused mindset, identify and acknowledge specific fears that get triggered when it comes to change. Guiding team members through this can also help employees let go of their own perfectionism at work. 

Make a Plan While Leading Through Change

Making a plan for times of change and uncertainty is essential for effective leadership. Creating a strategic plan with leadership teams not only aids in preparedness but also helps ease pressure and stress when it may be harder to stay positive or productive. 

When making a plan for navigating change, leaders should consider including the following:

  • Clear short-term and long-term goals
  • Organizational charts
  • Timelines or expected dates of major changes
  • Tangible, strategic steps the company is taking
  • Breakdown of role and task responsibilities for each department, team, or employee

Make sure everyone is on board with the plan and consider having regular meetings to revisit it and make adjustments throughout transitional phases. 

Educate and Explain

Team members can better process change when they understand what’s happening and why and know the plan. Leaders can help make navigating this easier for team members by:

  • Explaining the reasoning for changes taking place
  • Discussing team member roles and responsibilities during the transition
  • Helping them understand the end goal and what leadership will be doing as well
  • Presenting the transition as a positive opportunity for growth
  • Answering any questions or concerns about the upcoming change and any uncertainty

It’s good to keep an open line of communication during times of change and have preparatory meetings with team members to not only prepare but thrive during the change. 

Leading Through Change: Focus on the People

There can be many factors at play during transitions, and leaders can be pulled in so many directions that it may be overwhelming. While leaders will still have multiple things that need their attention, focusing on the people within the organization is key to holding the organization together and maintaining high-performance operations during those times. 

Here are some things leaders can do to stay focused on their team members and help them navigate changes and uncertainty:

  • Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know, and keep team members informed of details as they come in to ease uncertainty and help them stay informed. When you don’t know something, be transparent and communicate how you plan to find more information. 
  • Allow time for growth and learning with each team member. People learn differently and at different paces. Give each team member the time they need to learn and master new changes, whether it’s new policies, skills, equipment, or management. 
  • Provide and be open to valuable feedback. While it’s important for team members to receive feedback during times of change, it’s equally important for leaders to be open to feedback on how they can better support team members through the transition. Provide ways for staff to voice their opinions and concerns.
  • Set a positive example and empathize with team members. It can be helpful for leaders to remain positive during uncertain times while also displaying empathy toward the team members who are navigating changes. Embodying a positive example can help team members adopt a positive attitude toward change, and extending kindness and compassion can help boost morale. 

The Bottom Line

While change can be uncertain, and sometimes transitions are complex, there are numerous ways leaders can be proactive and prepared to help their team and organization navigate shifting waters successfully. With these tips, you and your team can come out on top of any change.
You can also bring in outside help, like a consultant, leadership coach, or transition management expert to help train leadership teams on skillsets for successfully leading through change and identifying strategies and areas of improvement to help execute a smooth transition. If you’re looking for leadership support and guidance within your organization, Chris Dyer is here to lend his expertise. Chris Dyer is a company culture expert, international keynote speaker, consultant, and best-selling author. If you’re interested in learning about how Chris can help provide your executives with leadership coaching and support, reach out to get in contact today.