Helping Your Team Survive Change
Change is an inevitable part of the work we do, especially in behavioral health. At work, we have to be conscious of how this change will impact the individuals on our teams. Change can make some people feel isolated and lonely or uproot the stability within their lives. We have to remember that people can only cope with so much change at once (LinkedIn), especially when the details surrounding the change are uncertain.
On the other hand, change can be a beautiful thing! It propels us forward and encourages us to do differently and improve upon what we’ve done in the past. It can help organizations thrive, bolster the relationships we have (while cultivating new ones), and positively impact our communities. But how do we get folks on our teams comfortable with change?
Let’s take a look at some strategies for cushioning change with your team:
Learn how people cope with change: Some folks love change and move towards it immediately. Some have trouble getting behind change they don’t understand. Still others are afraid of change. Get to know how each member of the team feels about, and copes with change and let that inform how you approach them.
Be available to actively listen: To create an environment where change is welcome, you must create a safe space where people can feel supported. You can do this by listening to your team’s concerns, validating their feelings, and by encouraging their honesty. As a leader, you need to be available to listen and truly hear your team.
Roll with resistance: Throughout the process of change, you’re going to encounter some resistance. Instead of dreading resistance, explore it! Resistance can tell us when our plans are unattainable, if we have staff that are apathetic versus engaged, and can encourage us to look for other (maybe, better) methods of change (Waddell & Sohal, 1998).
Involve folks in change planning: If you really want to motivate folks and build a shared vision, invite members of the team to share ideas related to the change and actually incorporate them. When the whole team is involved in aspects of the change, you increase the buy-in for change and people don’t feel, “out of the loop” (this could lessen anxiety!).
Try to roll out slowly: Some changes are sprung on you, and you don’t have a ton of time to prepare people. If you can, try to space out the change into smaller steps that can be achieved along the way. It may be easier to help folks change over a 3 -month period than a 1-month period.
Create some stability: Change can be destabilizing to a team, which can cause stress in individuals. Create some stability through developing a timeline for change, noting what will stay the same, and exploring different ways of making the change.
Waddell, D., & Sohal, A.S. (1998). Resistance: a constructive tool for change management. Management Decisions, 36(8), 543-548.