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Messy to Mastery: Navigating Team Change

Change can be hard and messy, especially when we have no control over it.

At work the impact of change can hit hard.

Strong, high performing, teams can become divided.  Left unchecked the team may spiral downwards, display below the line behaviours, become toxic.  It can be a shit show for people in the team.

Some people get on board with the change.  Others lag behind.  They don’t feel safe talking about how they are feeling about the change.  The quiet, inner voice, whispers “am I the only one feeling like this”.  The answer is no.

From team contributors to competing contributors

People shift from team contributors, collaborating connectively, to individual contributors, collaborate competitively, as they seek to find their space in the new order.

At this intersection the leader can feel powerless, confused, uncertain about what to do to get the train back on track. They have two choices.

  • Do nothing and hope the team will sort itself out (they won’t)
  • Step into the discomfort of checking in with the team around how they are feeling and help guide them forward.

Conversations that Matter

I recently worked with a team going through change.  The leader spotted the derailer signs and stepped in early, before the downward spiral, to check in with people.  We used the Emotional Culture Deck (ECD) to frame the conversations:

Current State

How do you feel about the change?

This is the big exhale part.  Using the cards, finding the words that described how they were feeling, people started cautiously sharing and opening up.  People relaxed into the conversations.  There were surprises and insights as they realised others felt the same, and others felt differently.  It normalised their perspective.

They explored the risks and opportunities of the change and their part in that.

Then future focus…

Over the next 6-12 months, how do we want to work together to navigate this change?

Using the ECD they co-created what success looked like for them.  How they wanted to feel and not feel, what they needed to do to promote the desired and manage the undesired.

As a team they shifted from splintered to strengthened relationships and trust.

Tips for teams during change

  • Look out for the little signs that a team may be going backwards
  • Step in quick to bring the team together to talk about the change
  • Focus on feelings first. Get comfortable with what people share.  Sit in this space for enough time for all to open up and with no judgement.
  • Then move into future state creating

Use a tool like the Emotional Culture Deck to help you safely navigate these conversations.

If your team is going through change, and you want to keep them in lockstep, reach out for a conversation that matters!

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