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9 ways great managers can lead through change

Leading through change is no easy task. We’ve seen first-hand how stressful transitional periods can be from our experiences throughout 2020. When a company is in flux, HR teams need to prioritize supporting their managers, who have a direct impact on how employees respond to unfamiliar situations. By providing managers with the right resources, knowledge, and support, HR can help them confidently lead through change. We’ll explain how in this post. 

1. Introduce the concept of radical candor

During times of uncertainty, many leaders try to shield their employees from everything that’s happening. While their intention may be to reduce stress for their workforce, this approach breeds mistrust due to the lack of transparency. That’s why we encourage you to teach your managers to adopt the use of radical candor instead. This communication framework facilitates communication that’s kind, clear, specific, and sincere.

For example, let’s say your organization is about to be acquired. Instead of forcing your managers to be tight-lipped about the upcoming transition, train them to give updates in a straightforward, empathetic way. Have them acknowledge that the changes can feel scary or overwhelming for employees while also being transparent about how the acquisition may affect the team. This approach will help employees build trust in their managers. 

2. Open up channels of communication

Your managers are on the frontlines when it comes to engaging with employees. So it’s essential to make sure they have the knowledge they need to support their team members – whether that’s by answering questions or pointing them to the appropriate resources.

When you know the company is about to undergo a significant change, open up additional communication channels for your managers. For example, you can host a Q&A session, extend your office hours, or create a private Slack channel for managers to raise their questions. The goal of these additional communication channels is to arm your managers with the information they need to address common concerns, such as: 

  • What are the changes that employees can expect in the upcoming months? 
  • Why are these changes happening?
  • How will this transition affect the day-to-day responsibilities of employees? 

Communicating openly with your managers also ensures that everyone is aligned on what’s happening in the organization. The last thing you want is for an employee to ask their company leaders a question and receive inconsistent responses from everyone, leading to confusion and miscommunication. 

3. Help employees cope 

COVID-19 has set a precedent for how quickly change can occur and how important mental health is and will continue to be. In fact, a survey found that 83% of employees report emotionally drained from their work during the pandemic. Even worse? 59% said that their supervisor does not provide enough support to help them manage their stress.

Regardless of what type of change your organization is going through, it’s clear that managers play an essential role when it comes to helping employees cope. Here are a few tips you can share with your managers so they can better support their direct reports: 

  • Have your managers intentionally check in with their direct reports during their 1:1s. 
  • Encourage managers to develop their soft skills through leadership coaching or mentoring.
  • Train managers to direct employees to the company’s mental health resources, such as counseling services or wellness stipends. 

4. Create a culture of psychological safety

Humans are wired to stay safe. During times of change, people may feel psychologically threatened by the uncertainty. That’s why it’s especially critical to create a culture of psychological safety during these periods of transition.  A study from Google furthered the importance of psychological safety, naming it the most important factor for a team’s success. 

To create this type of environment, your managers have to understand how to respond to your employees’ fears, concerns, and questions. Specifically, you may want to train your managers to engage in conversations with an empathetic, non-judgmental mindset. This ensures that their direct reports feel safe turning to your managers with their concerns, rather than being afraid to express what’s really on their minds. 

At the end of the day, all employees want to feel seen, heard, and valued. By empowering your managers to lead with radical candor, open communication, and empathy, you can get through even the most challenging times of change. To learn how coaching and mentoring can help your managers take their leadership skills to the next level, download our ebook Building Leaders At Scale.