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Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
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Agile Change: Shifting Your Mindset to Lead Effectively

Agile Change: Shifting Your Mindset to Lead Effectively

I tend to take the same route home every day. Why? Because it’s easy and familiar, and I don’t have to think too hard. That’s how most people are.

Change is often hard. Change is often met with resistance. Most people find comfort in the familiar and predictable, making the prospect of change daunting.

For business professionals, especially leaders, fostering an environment that not only accepts, but embraces change, is crucial. Developing an agile mindset is fundamental to this process.

How can leaders truly embrace change and help others to shift their mindset as well?

Before diving into strategies for embracing change, it is important to understand why change is often feared. New software system? New boss? New healthcare options? Even changes that might be positive can come with concerns.

  1. Uncertainty: Change brings unknowns, and uncertainty can cause anxiety.
  2. Loss of control: People fear losing control over their environment and outcomes.
  3. Fear of failure: Changes might lead to failures, and the fear of failing can be paralyzing.
  4. Disruption of routine: Established routines provide comfort and stability; change disrupts these.

Leaders need to acknowledge these fears, both within themselves and their teams, to effectively address and overcome them.

How can people move from fear to opportunity?

To lead change effectively, leaders must transform their own mindset towards change. Here are key steps to achieve this transformation:

  1. Reframe Change as an Opportunity

Change should be viewed not as a threat, but as an opportunity for growth and improvement. This involves a fundamental shift in perspective:

  • Embrace a Positive Attitude: Focus on the potential benefits and opportunities that change can bring rather than dwelling on the negatives. This positive outlook can be contagious and help to alleviate team anxieties.
  • Default to the Good: Assume everyone has the best of intentions. Assume everyone intends the best. Reframe the change as being positive.
  • Highlight Success Stories: Share examples of successful changes within the organization or industry to illustrate the potential positive outcomes of embracing change.
  1. Further Develop Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as those of others. High EI is crucial for leading change because it enables leaders to navigate the emotional landscape of their team:

  • Self-Awareness: Be aware of your own emotional responses to change. Recognize any anxiety or resistance you may have and address it proactively. Ask “Is this really something to be afraid of?” and “What exactly is so worrisome about this situation?”
  • Empathy: Understand and empathize with the concerns of your team. This helps in building trust and easing the transition.
  • Listen: Ask for feedback and listen carefully for solutions.
  1. Cultivate Resilience

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from setbacks and adapt to challenging circumstances. I call this the art of the bounce. How well do you bounce back from disappointments, setbacks, and tragedies? Some people are naturally good at being resilient, but for others, they need to learn specific skills. Building resilience is key to maintaining momentum during periods of change:

  • Focus on Adaptability: Encourage a flexible approach to problem-solving. Look at all options, even if they seem impossible.
  • Pivot the Strategy: A plan only lasts until it must change. Be willing to pivot strategies as needed.
  • Build Support Systems: Create a network of support within the organization where team members can share experiences and offer mutual encouragement. Note: This is not a place for employees to come together to complain. It is about sharing ideas and offering support.

Empowering Others to Adapt

Empowering your team to embrace change is critical.

  1. Involve the Team in the Change Process

Involve team members in planning and decision-making processes related to change:

  • Collaborative Planning: Engage the team in brainstorming sessions and planning meetings.
  • Inclusive Decision-Making: Seek input from team members at all levels to ensure diverse perspectives are considered.
  • Rip Off the BandAid: Once the decision is made, implement it. If you do not change fatigue sets in, and the team no longer feels that the change matters.
  • Provide Training and Resources: Ensure that your team has the necessary skills and resources to navigate change successfully. Offer training programs, workshops, and other learning opportunities to help the team develop relevant skills. Provide the tools and resources needed to implement changes effectively.

Leaders need to create a culture that supports change and encourages risk-taking. Ensure that team members feel safe expressing ideas, take risks, and make mistakes without fear of retribution. Recognize and reward behaviors that align with the desired change, such as innovation, collaboration, and resilience.

Leading change with an agile mindset requires a deep-seated shift in how leaders perceive and react to change. By reframing change as an opportunity, developing emotional intelligence, cultivating resilience, leading by example, and empowering their teams, business professionals can transform their organizations into agile, adaptable entities ready to thrive in a dynamic business environment.

The journey toward embracing change is challenging, but it is made easier when we remember that NOT changing is not an option.


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