The 3 Best Ways to Navigate Change (and Uncertainty) Successfully

Uncertainty has become the new norm. Since mid-March, in order to keep people safe from the coronavirus, we were faced with almost daily changes that have impacted the way we work, interact, and socialize.

Three months later, there’s an added dimension of uncertainty with nationwide riots that contributes to people feeling on edge.  On many levels, anxiety is running rampant and conflict has heightened that has left people afraid to leave their homes. 

That’s why as a leader being armed with ways to guide your employees through uncertainty and change is essential.

John, one of the leaders in my book How Did My Family Get In My Office?! is familiar with change. His expertise is turning around underperforming companies. Way before the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest, he was used to dealing with employee anxiety and resistance as he introduces change to keep the company doors open.

The following are three ways John helps his employees to navigate change successfully that can be applied to how you help your employees during this time of uncertainty.

The 3 Best Ways to Navigate Change (and Uncertainty) Successfully

1. Acknowledge fear is normal

John says “I want our employees to know I understand it’s normal to have fear around change. If I don’t let them know I understand how hard change is, the change could alienate people and lead to conflict and resistance.  I encourage them to reflect on positive changes they have made in their own lives and acknowledge that the first step is always the hardest.”

You will have a greater chance of success and lowering employee’s anxiety by first acknowledging and empathizing with what people are feeling.

  • In what ways are you acknowledging to your employees it’s okay to feel fear? Simply saying, “this is hard, it’s okay to be afraid” conveys empathy and you understand what they’re going through.

2. Convey hope

John says “I share with my colleagues this quote:

To the fearful change is threatening because things may get worse.  To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better.  To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better

My job as a leader is to inspire the fearful to become hopeful and give the change we are introducing a chance. If people are hopeful, ideally that’s a stepping stone to confidence.”

Today in June of 2020, our country is facing a grim reality. We’re in the midst of a health crisis, economic downturn, and civil disorder. Conveying hope isn’t about ignoring reality and what people are going through. It’s about believing the future will be better than the present.

Shane Lopez in his book The Science Hope shares there are two core beliefs of hopeful people. The belief that there are many paths to goals and secondly, that none of the paths are free of obstacles. When you meet obstacles (and we are) be confident, as a team you’ve got what it takes to persevere.

  • In what ways are you conveying hope to your employees by letting them know there are many paths to get through this tumultuous time in our country and your team has what it takes to get through it?

3. Recognize change takes courage

John says “I make a big deal of recognizing the courage it takes to change. My motto is Change Takes Courage and I’ve given our employees shirts with this simple message.  It’s one thing to initiate change, it’s another thing to sustain it. If people are going to buy into change, they need to know they have a choice and they don’t have to go it alone.”

By definition, courage is the willingness to act in the presence of fear. It’s having a calm steadiness to face extreme difficulty. As a leader, when you cast the vision of facing change and uncertainty with the courage of calm steadiness, you are creating the environment to alleviate the anxiety of the unknown for your employees.

Three months into coronavirus, most likely you’ve already implemented changes that challenge some of your employees. Whether it’s working from home, collaborating long distance, creating a different product, or being furloughed, your  employees are counting on your leadership to provide them the inspiration, confidence and courage to embrace change and deal with uncertainty.

  • In what ways, are you leading the way?

How Did My Family Get into My Office?!, is a compilation of real-life stories of how leaders changed their family conflict pattern and leveraged their leadership success. John is one of the leaders featured in the book who shares how he overcame avoiding conflict at all costs to handling conflict productively.

Take Bonnie’s mini-course to improve how you handle conflict in your workplace.

About the author 

Bonnie Artman Fox, MS, LMFT works with executive leaders who want to gain self-awareness about the impact of their words and actions and up-level their interpersonal skills. 

Drawing from decades as a psychiatric nurse and licensed family therapist, Bonnie brings a unique perspective to equip executive leaders with the roadmap to emotional intelligence that brings teams together. 

Bonnie’s leadership Turnaround coaching program has an 82% success rate in guiding leaders to replace abrasive behavior with tact, empathy, and consideration of others. The end result is a happy, healthy, and profitable workplace…sooner vs. later.

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