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3 Easy Steps to Change Leadership

During times of uncertainty, ignite the commitment of your team members by shifting to change leadership.

Whether the change is planned like an ERP implementation or unplanned as we saw with COVID-19, uncertainty exists. Leaders hold the power to create certainty. A firm understanding of change management theory and practices serve as the foundation for solid change leadership. When leaders ask three simple questions about change, they set the stage for success.

Leaders’ Question: What Needs to Happen?

When you have been informed of a change or impending change the next step would be to assess the anticipated impact. Asking the question, ‘what needs to happen?’ begins the leadership journey. Survey the workplace, how will the change impact process, people, systems, and structures? Keep in mind that both the benefits or the threats created by the change are opportunities to learn about the people and organizational culture. A critical analysis of the ripple effect will inform your plan to move forward. Change leadership focuses on preparing and supporting your teams before, during, and after the change.

Leaders’ Question: How Do I Prepare and Support My Team?

You prepare and support your team through purposeful and meaningful communication. Align your team to a clear common goal, a vision. There is significant research supporting high-performing teams that have clearly stated shared goals. Communication is a crucial component in ensuring every team member is on the same page. Team efficacy is a result of driving purpose and motivation. Involve your team in discussions about the change, and explore the risks and rewards of the change. Meet them where they are: excited, confused, sad, happy, celebrating, or grieving. Together map how important an employee’s role is in two ways: to the team’s goals and to the organizational mission. Foster a sense of belonging and worthiness by acknowledging how their contributions impact the success of the organization.

During the change, ensure that the feeling of value continues by instituting two-way communication processes. Start dedicating time for employee emotional and operational processing of the change during standard huddles, 1:1 sessions, and even town halls. Conduct pulse surveys for anonymous feedback. Multiple connection points from multiple leadership vantages message employees that leaders at every level are vested in their success, from front-line supervisors to c-suite executives. Understanding where your team is holistically, logically, operationally, and emotionally, will enable you to lead them with confidence and compassion.

After the change, provide your team with emotional and operational closure. Methods to offer reflection and build resilience are Postmortem, After Action Review (AAR), and Hot Washes. They seek a collective understanding of what worked, what did not, and what to stop, start, and continue. When these lessons learned are applied, they can help to shape the future and validate employee trust in an organization. The end of change is the opportunity to transition that change into a ‘new normal.’

Leaders’ Question: When Do I Start Sustaining the Changes?

Start sustaining the changes the moment you hear of the change. Systems thinking is a way to frame change through each stage: before, during, and after. Set your team for success by considering the work knowledge gaps created by the change. Identify the learning opportunities that will grow and develop your team. There are two important knowledge pathways to sustain change: processes and people. Processes are the logical and rational business knowledge required to achieve peak performance. People are the emotions, resilience, and well-being required to engage employees in a psychologically safe environment.  By designing long-term solutions, leaders may ensure long-term success.


By answering three simple questions, you can create a blueprint for change leadership. Once you identify what is required for change, you may communicate with your team and stakeholders. Transparency builds trust. By understanding the current state of the business, the team has the “why” and they are less likely to see the change as threatening. Create a work environment where employees may have open, honest, and frequent conversations with their managers. Perpetuate a culture of continuous learning by asking three simple questions.

Download Your Ultimate Playbook for Change Management Success Today!

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About Author

Dr. Christina Barss
Dr. Christina Barss

Dr. Christina Barss is an experienced industry subject matter expert in improvement sciences and organizational culture change. Her unique blend of practical, academic, and art perspectives creates custom operational and employee engagement solutions that transform the bottom line. For example, her PhD in sustainable systems design focused on disparately located interprofessional teams in transition during lean transformation at a large, midwestern, urban, academic medical center. Dr. Barss' 12 years in healthcare were filled leading strategic enterprise-level initiatives to improve patient safety, quality, service, and innovation as well as teaching and coaching executives. From C-suite to frontline, she connects seamlessly and guides others in building trust bridges. Her continuous improvement science foundation began in the manufacturing industry. She presents nationally and internationally on design thinking, change management, organizational culture, corporate learning, executive education, and succession planning.

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