8 Steps to Help Teams Master the Waves of Change

Crashing Waves

Helping your team thrive during change takes a plan that is certain and reliable. After all, change is difficult enough, so the best way to lead your people through times that seem turbulent is to provide them with a clear and steady road map.

Otherwise, they will feel tossed around in a sea of confusion.

A Sea of Change

I grew up on the beach (almost literally) in a small town in North Florida.  I remember being in the ocean with my sisters when we were children.  Sometimes it was choppy,  and the waves came down on us one after the next. They were so powerful – knocking me down and sometime stealing my breath.  But I would pop back up to face the next wave.

In this “post great-recession” world, change can pound us like the ocean pounds away at the beach.  We feel the erosion and we understand the risks.

We can’t keep up with the pace of change, let alone get ahead of it. At the same time, the stakes—financial, social, environmental, political—are rising.Accelerate ~ John Kotter

Change is the Only Constant

Leaders know that change is a permanent part of the business landscape. In fact, if you work in a large organization, you may be dealing with several significant change issues simultaneously. You are experiencing the waves, every day, with no end in sight.  You are also charged with helping a team of people navigate this ocean of constant change.

One of the best things a leader can do is help understand and develop the skills that will be required to be successful as the organization changes. After all, nothing kills the desire to try something new faster than the fear (or certain knowledge) that you will face the waves and drown.

People can’t do what they don’t know how to do.   – The Leadership Challenge, James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Mastering Change

Help your people build the skills they need master the crashing waves of change.  Here are some tips to get you started:

1) Identify skill gaps on the team

As a leader it is important that you know where your people have the skills to succeed and where they need development.

2) Ask people on your team what you can do to help them

People will share their thoughts on how they could best master new skills.  Start the conversation.

3) Be specific about the skills that are required

In a situation where people are facing something completely new, they may not know where to start.  Managers should be specific  about the new skills that are required for team success.

4) Shape roles and assignments to develop skills on your team

Powerful development happens on the job so maximize the opportunity for your team.  Provide support to help build skills in a stretch assignment.

5) Help people find resources to grow

Books, training and mentors are just a few options.  You may also consider local professional groups, higher education programs and cross training.

6) Commit the development plan to paper and hold each other accountable to work the plan

There are a number of good models for creating development goals.  It is a safe bet to focus on goals, actions and measures.  If you define these, you are off to a great start.

7) Provide feedback as people try new skills

Tailor feedback to meet individual needs.  Don’t forget to take advantage of “coachable moments”.

8) Maintain your own enthusiasm

Change is hard and your people rely on your to bring positive energy every day.  You must believe the team can be successful.  They will share your optimism.

Change Starts Within

Don’t forget to be committed to your own development. Leaders at all levels have an opportunity to be a true model of personal development. Talk with your team about your development plan and invite their feedback.

If you are working with a coach, let people know that you have one.  Finally, be open about both your success and your failures and make sure you address the important lessons that can be learned from both.

What are you doing to help your time thrive during times of change?  Are you working on developing any specific new skills?  Do you have a personal development plan? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Melissa Lanier

Melissa Lanier leads Global Talent Management for an S&P SmallCap 600 Firm
She is driven to build High Performing Cultures Aligned to Strategy
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L2L Contributing Author