The Change Reaction or How to Lead the Change Successfully

What is your natural response to change? Is it excitement or is it a slight feeling of anxiety? Now let’s put this change question into a context. What would be your natural reaction to introduction of changes at work? How about your colleagues?

As you might have guessed, the most common response of many people is obviously resistance and many degrees of it, from simple worry but overall open-mindedness to an irrational fear that can paralyze some people’s actions. The worst reaction of all that one can expect is a rebellion against anything new expressed by certain individuals that could plainly sabotage the whole initiative.

So what does a manager that is dealing with introduction of change, need to know in order to successfully go through the transformations ahead.

For a start, accept the fact that resistance to change is natural. Moreover, accept the fact that there might be tough calls to make and managing communication will become crucial.

Some change management experts’ group employees’ reactions into four generalized types:

  • the enthusiasts that will support the initiative and that’s the major group that you could rely on;
  • the cautious   - these are the people that overall would have a positive attitude to change, however, they would appreciate support in dealing with change through training and development programs as most probably they were already lagging behind in skills and knowledge for a while;
  • the terrified, whose irrational fear might simply paralyze them and requires to be addressed sometimes through counselling, however, that might be out of scope of support that the company would be able to provide, so some of the difficult decision would have to be made here;
  • the rebels, who would either openly or covertly undermine any initiative for change; these people usually pose the biggest risk to the organization also in times when business runs at its “normal”, let alone facing changes or harsh situations.

What becomes obvious when looking at these four responses is that the right communication will make a tremendous impact. Change is usually perceived by people in terms of a loss of something valuable to them - be it a control, a status or a financial stability, etc. - and that is the cause of all possible negative emotions. Understanding your people and their motivations is key to surviving the change and coming out of it on top of the situation.

When talking about changes, it’s important to be aware what kind of changes can be expected in order to predict the course of actions and be prepared.


There are four major things to keep in mind for a manager.

First of all, the sources of disruption should be analyzed and ways of foreseeing such changes should be among the tools a manager has at his or her hand. The causes of course can vary - be it geopolitical surprises, changes in consumer behaviors, innovations, technology, digitalization, or new business models.

Secondly, the rules for successful transformation have to be developed. In some cases that might mean developing a new or upgrading an existing business model. What needs to be taken into consideration is a thorough analysis which part of a business model needs to be adjusted in order to create bigger value for consumers. Moreover, there are new business models emerging that could not have existed in the past but working well now, so possible “out-of-the-box” scenarios should be trialed.

Thirdly, leadership priorities stays always a major concern when dealing with change. When something like technology gets into the business reality, leaders that are aware of change and know how to lead in new circumstances by adjusting communication, motivational mix, teamwork rules, problem-solving capabilities, have more chances to come out on top. However, what are the right approaches, is debatable.

Winston Churchill once said that »It is no use saying, 'We are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.” The last thing to be dealt with is the questions of integration and application of a new strategy. To make the most of opportunities, leaders and their teams must know how to transform and make the right strategic choices. Disruptive change brings new behaviors and creates new values. The biggest change that is required is the change of mentality which everybody knows is not easy to achieve.

All of the above will be covered during a new two-day seminar of the IEDC “Leading Disruptive Change” on October 18-19, 2018. Find more information here.

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