Five Steps to Living and Leading Change

Published on April 14, 2023

Effective change leaders — and that should be every leader in the organization from the top down — acknowledge that change affects them personally. Those leaders work through their own reactions and take their own inner change journey first. That process equips them to consciously see how they behave, interact, and lead as change unfolds. In a world where change is constant, those leaders better address the reactions and concerns of others. They provide support that generates commitment and buy-in from their teams.

Are you a change champion for others but less so for yourself? Here are five steps you can take to work through how you experience and react to change. This intentional practice will help you create the conditions necessary for your team to successfully adapt.

1. Acknowledge. You are impacted by organizational change. This requires self-awareness and recognizing the substantial emotional impact of change. It requires understanding how change will impact your work life. How do you interpret what the change may mean for you? How will work relationships or dynamics shift? How do you generally react under stress? Take time to reflect.

2. Clarify. Be clear about what is real. Learn as much as you can about what is changing. Get the facts about how the change will impact you and your team. Refrain from speculating. Remain current as change unfolds. Share the facts with your teams and provide updates as you have them.

3. Process. Work with your thoughts and feelings. After learning about a change, pause to consider your reactions. Consider how your attitudes and emotions affect how you communicate and interact with others. If your reaction is positive, consider the assumptions you are making. Expect that some impacts of change are unknown. Oftentimes, events unfold in ways we don’t anticipate.

If your reaction is negative, where might those emotional responses be coming from? Are they based on past experiences unrelated to present circumstances? Take time to consider how you are feeling. Reach out to others for information, for opportunities to share concerns, or to validate assumptions. Often a supportive coach or facilitator can help.

Uncovering inner thoughts and emotions takes effort. Being more self-reflective helps you stay grounded by slowing down your thinking process. Take time. Find safe spaces where you can do this important work, so you are your best with colleagues and team members.

4. Identify. Determine what you can control and manage yourself. Believing we have some control in a situation provides agency. Agency is the capacity to control thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It means taking responsibility for words and actions. As a leader, you can choose how to react and how to respond. Here are some tips for how to have greater agency:

  • Be selective about who you listen to, and associate with others with a positive stance.
  • Be aware the mood of others can be contagious. Negative people can influence your emotions.
  • Be open to learning. People with high levels of agency are continually learn. This requires nurturing your curiosity and allowing yourself to explore new ideas and skills.

5. Create. Craft your own story about the change. How we talk to ourselves and with others impacts how we think and feel about change. How do you explain to yourself what the change will mean? What challenges will you overcome? How will you navigate the journey? What do you hope to experience on the other side of change? Creating your narrative will bring a sense of control. Furthermore, sharing the story can be a powerful way to help your colleagues and team members make sense of, and navigate, change. Storytelling is powerful. Share your story with your team. Help them create their own. Change is already here! How are you living and leading change?