Why is change so hard for my team?

I get asked this question a lot, and the truth is 70% of change initiatives fail.

The good news is being able to effectively create change on your team is an easy way to stand out from the crowd as a leader people want to work for and with.

Because change is really hard for people and being able to do it well requires having a well throughout plan.

The most difficult part of creating change is transforming mindset. Even the thought of things changing can make people feel anxious. When faced with a major life change, the brain automatically sees it as negative. 

Why are we this way?

And as a leader, you are often asked to lead change before you have all the answers you know your team is going to ask you. Isn’t being a middle manager fun? 

You might not even agree with the change, but as a business leader you have to take a step back, look at the big picture, and be ready to support your team.

What’s the ROI of effective change management? 

  • Higher employee engagement, 
  • reduced turnover, 
  • faster project implementation, 
  • and bottom-line growth

Companies who excel at change management are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers in revenue growth.

That’s a big deal!

Let’s look at a few tools you can use to navigate change effectively.

Where do I get started?

Change is about people. 

You can have the best strategy in the world, but if your team isn’t on board, you’re running on fumes. 

So, how do you engage the team? 

  • First, communicate more than you think you need to. 
  • Second, involve them in the process. 

When people feel they’re part of the solution, they become ambassadors of change, not barriers.

Three questions you should ask yourself while preparing to lead through change:

  • Who will be impacted?
  • How do I best communicate with them?
  • How can I support them?

Nobody likes to feel like they were the last to know, so be proactive in communicating. 

You want them to have as much time to prepare as possible. When time isn’t an available luxury, be transparent in explaining why as a way to maintain trust. 

Change is hard for some, and it’s really hard for others

Remember that everyone on your team will handle the change differently. Plan on being engaged throughout the communication process. When you can see people on your team are struggling, be available to listen. 

Your goal in these conversations is not to defend the change–this will only make things worse. Instead, take time to listen to their concerns and understand what is at the root of the problem. 

After they’ve had time to vent, do this:

  1. Clear up any misconceptions around the change (briefly)
  2. Clarify your role in supporting your team through the change (“This is what you can expect from me…”)
  3. Clarify expectations for your team members (“This is what we need from you…”)

There is a lot that goes into change, let’s look at a roadmap…

What is ADKAR?


No, it’s not the name of a new Star Wars show. It’s a change management framework that’s as straightforward as it is effective.

ADKAR stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. These are the five steps to ensure change sticks. 

First, Awareness. 

People need to know why a change is needed. Your team won’t help you change direction if they don’t understand why it’s crucial. Make the case by emphasizing both the negative consequences of things staying the same the positive outcomes that can be achieved by the team uniting behind the vision. 

Second is Desire. 

Once they know the why, do they actually want to help make the change? Here’s where you appeal to their individual motivations and incentives.

🕶 Heads up, this one is always the biggest challenge and the truth is some people need to see the positive impacts before being bought in. Always go for commitment, but sometimes you have to start with compliance. 

Third, Knowledge. 

Okay, so they’re aware and they want to help. Now what? Equip them with the know-how. This is where training and education come in.

Fourth, Ability. 

Knowledge is power, but execution is king. Are your team members capable of implementing what they’ve learned? This is the trial-and-error phase, so keep the feedback loop tight.

Finally, Reinforcement. 

Change is fragile. Without reinforcement, people slip back into old habits faster than you can say “status quo.” Make the change stick with ongoing support, recognition, and rewards.

ADKAR It’s like a GPS for navigating the bumpy road of organizational change. But remember, GPS only works if you follow the directions. So don’t just know ADKAR, live it!

And once your team sees you are able to effectively manage change with empathy and resilience, it becomes a lot easier for them to be confident you have their back the next time a change is needed. 

But is there more?

Change management is a massive topic with hundreds of books and courses written about it.

Here are 17 books that will help you lead change well.

Being able to lead change will play a crucial role in building a brand that instills trust in the people around you. 

And speaking of change, now is a good time to pivot my own content. 

Over the next two months I’ll be writing about conflict resolution. 

Help me out here my friends:

What are the biggest challenges you face when trying to resolve conflict on your team?

Respond to this email and let me know.

Jacob Espinoza is a leadership coach in Salem, Oregon. For more information visit JacobEspinoza.com.

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