Is Your Team Stuck in the Change Cycle? Here are the Right Things to Say

graphic that says is your team stuck in the change cycle? here are the right things to say

“In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.” -Warren Buffett

Organizational change is inevitable — we see it every day. Speed of technology development. Accelerated product cycles. Adapting to global markets. Need to streamline processes. Pressure for cost reduction. Regulatory demands. Declining customer service levels.

The list goes on and on. Any one of these factors can drive significant organizational change. And because you are a human being and not a robot, organizational change impacts you and everyone on your team on an emotional level.

It’s important to recognize and understand the normal emotions and behaviors that happen throughout the change process. By having this knowledge, you will be better prepared to handle the various situations that change can throw their way, and shepherd your teammates through the process.

We have combined our Engagement and Accountability model (change cycle model) with William Bridges Phases of Transition model and the emotions that are present as people move through the transition and change process.

See below for the natural stages of the change cycle and some of the questions and statements you can use to help your team:

  1. Disbelief Stage – Team will feel fear, denial, anger, sadness, disorientation, frustration and uncertainty. Recommended leader response:
    • “We’re doing everything we can to reduce stress during this process. Your additional suggestions are welcome.”
    • “What do you think is ending for you or for the team as a result of this change?”
  1. Opposition Stage – Team will feel resentment, low morale, low productivity, anxiety about role and confusion. Recommended leader response:
    • “Do you feel like things are happening that are out of your control?”
    • “What are the obstacles you foresee in learning this new process, role, etc.?”
  1. Exploration Stage – Team will feel curiosity about role, skepticism and cautious optimism. Recommended leader response:
    • “Let’s brainstorm some ideas of how we might approach this together.”
    • “Let’s set a few short term goals that we believe we can accomplish in the next 2 weeks.”
  1. Investment Stage – Team will feel high energy, openness to learning and a renewed commitment to the team or their role. Recommended leader response:
    • “Let’s identify your most important goals and lay out a plan with action steps to help you reach them.”
    • “I am so impressed with your attitude towards learning this new process. This is a perfect growth opportunity for you.”

Remember, we all approach change as humans. You and your team are supposed to cycle through these emotions. But you are the leader for a reason, and it’s in these moments that you will prove your leadership mettle. It’s your job as a leader to help ask the right questions to acknowledge, support and help move your team from a place of fear and uncertainty towards investment and energetic commitment.

If you need help moving your team through the emotional phases of change, contact Powers Resource Center at

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