Leading Through Change: Emphasizing Empathy in Change Management

People often underestimate the effects of change management.

In times of stress, such as change, our emotional responses can be very strong and often underestimated.

I once had to inform my wife of a big change, this change was good for me, a great opportunity, and I thought she would see it in the same light.

How wrong could I be, for her, it was a huge impact, it created a great deal of stress and anxiety, and caused her to ask an awful lot of questions which I couldn’t really answer very well, and certainly not to her satisfaction.

For me, I saw great potential, an opportunity to follow a dream, a chance to maybe move back to the US, where we both enjoyed living. I thought she would be happy at the news!

But my wife just saw uncertainty, upheaval, a loss of security, the challenge of moving and the potential loss of some very close friends.

To be honest I hadn’t considered all of that, I had taken a selfish approach, thinking that if it was good for me, it would be good for us, and she would see it and feel it in the same way.

Over a week later, she ended up seeing it that way and now is as excited as much as I am.

But when first announced it, it was a shock, she was stunned and very stressed.

Often in companies we deliver messages, which we as leaders see as good for the company, in the same way, taking little time or thought for how the people will react.

They have not had the benefit of working on the change for the months that we have, they haven’t had the time to get used to the idea. It comes as a shock, and it’s hard to take in all the news and see the benefits at the same time.

As leaders, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of our people and try to imagine how we would react in similar circumstances. Let’s face it we have all been on the receiving end of changes, both positive and negative, so it’s not hard to imagine what we would feel like in their position.

If we can do that, if we can really empathise, then we should look to build our change management communication from that perspective.

Focus on minimising the stress, and the shock, and focus on getting people through the change rather than just communicating the change, even if we feel that it is good news.

We should never forget that people don’t like change, they much prefer stability and security it is a basic human need, and even good change can be very stressful at the start.

Good Leaders focus on the people, and not just on the change!

If you want to learn more about creating highly engaged teams or being a better leader click the link to view our course.