By Hannah Kaiser

All organizations go through change. A small start-up may make lots of alterations quickly, while other larger companies may take more time to change. But in a technology-driven and globalized world, no business can remain in stasis for long if they wish to be successful. It is up to leaders to not only decide how to refine their business and keep ahead but also how to guide their organization through change.

The ambiguity that comes with change may be a major threat to success. It brings uncertainty and instability. People will be unsure of their place within the company, and wonder what the future might look like. 

A select few will thrive under these conditions. These types are flexible when things shift, and can always face problems head on. Under certain circumstances, their performance may even improve during ambiguity. However, not everyone can be so fearlessly adaptable. If an employee is worried about the security of their job, the ambiguity of organizational change will likely have the opposite effect. These individuals may be less willing to make the leap. They will have a tendency to avoid problems rather than address them. In these situations, many will end up looking to their leader for assurance. 

Leading others during change will take a combination of providing actionable tools as well as peace of mind. While it may not always be possible for a leader to eliminate all sources of uncertainty and stress during organizational change, acting as a role model for embracing change and remaining flexible can go a long way. 

Encourage Openness to Change

Change is intimidating. Employees who are unclear about their role in the organization—wondering how it may change in the future or even whether they will be able to keep it—will not be performing at their best. Often, increased feelings of job insecurity can lead to employees feeling worried and disengaged at work. These feelings will likely have a significantly negative impact on their performance. As a result, organizational success may suffer. 

Here are some ways leaders can give employees the means to adapt to change: 

  • Listen to employee concerns—authentically. During major change, people in your organization will inevitably have concerns about the future of the company, as well as anxiety about their specific role within that future. Give your employees a space to voice these concerns, and address them to the best of your abilities. It may very well be that some fears cannot be alleviated, but demonstrating to your employees that you are willing to listen to them and take their worries seriously can build their trust in you as a leader.
  • Allow employees to be more involved in decision-making. Give employees a sense of agency by including them in decisions about their organization whenever possible. This will help them combat their feelings of uncertainty, therefore allowing them to be more proactive during the process of change. 
  • Be transparent. Leaders may be tempted to keep things vague during ambiguous times, but the inclination to be secretive will only succeed in worsening feelings of insecurity. If business strategy, organizational roles, and policies shift with little prior notice or for unclear reasons, employees may feel blindsided. Be as open and transparent as possible about change, and why it is necessary. 

Following these steps will give your employees the confidence they need to successfully face uncertainty. Ambiguous times in organizations will almost always be uncomfortable, but those who are permitted an active and informed role in change will be more likely to embrace it. 

Be Committed 

When faced with ambiguity, some leaders may feel the need to back away from the problems it brings. The most effective leaders, however, will choose to rise to the challenge and face problems head-on. 

If you are truly and fully committed to the future of your organization and demonstrate that you are able to adopt the company’s values, employees will notice your mindset and internalize it. When they have someone model what it means to embrace change, they will be empowered to follow suit. Research suggests that employees with visibly committed leaders are not only more likely to identify with organizational goals and values, but they tend to perform better as well. 

As a leader, you can support commitment to change by: 

  • Reframing change. Change can be scary, but it can also be exciting. Treating it as a period of creativity and experimentation with new ideas may make change easier to approach. Engaging in these exploratory behaviors will encourage your employees to do the same.  
  • Being authentic. Demonstrating your commitment to change can incite commitment in others, but only if yours is authentic. If you are primarily acting in your own interest, it’s likely your employees will know it. Do your best to genuinely internalize the values and goals of your company, and then act accordingly. Ideally, the rest of the organization will soon follow. 
  • Being mindful. Remaining attentive and open-minded in ambiguous situations will allow you to embrace change and notice new opportunities. While going through organizational change, consistently remain present in the moment. Be proactive and thoughtful in decision-making and goal-setting. Staying on top of things will allow you to lead your organization more effectively. 

During organizational change, it is essential that leaders do not shy away from challenges. These principles will give you the agency to effectively tackle the ambiguity of change. A leader who can confidently face organizational change can also alleviate the individual worries of those in their organization. 

Why Building Confidence Matters

Organizations that are going through change may need their employees to extend themselves in order to make things work. The changes will likely create many new problems to solve, and require employees to make lots of adjustments to their routine. However, employees won’t be able to effectively challenge themselves if their insecurities are too high. 

The process of change is a team effort. Leaders need to be effective guides, and build confidence and trust with their employees. When employees feel they can trust their leaders and their organization, they will be able to go above and beyond in their role. Their ability to do this may very well make the difference between success and failure in organizational change. 

You Don’t Have to Do it Alone

If you find yourself facing a change and are unsure of the best way to keep moving forward, let’s talk. We are an organizational effectiveness consulting company and have helped countless individuals and organizations through very difficult times. We would love to be part of your journey as you navigate the successes and challenges that lie ahead. Please contact us for a no-obligation, free consultation by clicking this link: Innovative Connections or calling us at 970-279-3330.

Our mission is to give voice and action to an emerging future. As a partner in your success, we would love to help you find your voice, see your vision, and imagine what the right action could be for you, your team, and your organization.