Embracing change management: Building trust so others will follow you into the unknown – Part 5

Willis Towers Watson Associate Gaby Joyner

Final part in a five-part blog series

Building trust and influencing others through your own behavior is the final building block of leading organizational change, and it underpins the other components we’ve discussed throughout this series.

Although communication and knowledge sharing are paramount in change management, the level of trust people have in their leaders, as well as the style of those leaders, are key to sustainable change.

Employees need to trust their leader. And they need to believe their leader is authentic and has their interests in mind. Our Global Workforce Study reveals that trust in senior leadership is a key reason employees decide to stay with an organization. And trust, much like respect, has to be earned — not demanded.

As a leader, you can build trust in several ways. To start, make an effort to really understand your employees: Listen to them, reflect on how they respond to communications and events, identify sources of resistance, and then respond accordingly and consistently. It’s how you respond to events and challenges that will set the tone and establish your brand as a leader. If you spend time showing employees you take their concerns seriously, you’ll help establish yourself as trustworthy and authentic. And you’ll lay a solid foundation for the all the work informing, engaging and enabling you’ll need to do as a good change leader.

To counter resistance to change, you must be observant and able to recognize signs of discontent. Classic indicators include negativity, disinterest, lack of focus and withdrawal. Knowing what to look for makes early intervention and re-engagement easier. Remember to treat resistance as intelligence that can inform your change effort and actually help you make it more effective.

Change Curve: Common responses to change (from Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, 1969)

chart-common responses to change from Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, 1969

This curve shows common responses to change. As a change leader, understanding these responses will help you plan for reactions, and ultimately reduce the dip in the curve as well as the time people take to move through it. Leadership should at all times be accessible, but particularly during times of change: The art of influence and persuasion lies in the ability to interact in an authentic way with others.

Running a business can be daunting. Leaders must manage through multifaceted challenges, often remotely, to ensure their business and people not only survive, but thrive. Strong change leadership is key to helping those impacted navigate through change. With effective change leadership, organizations can avoid pitfalls and strive for a stronger, more prosperous future.



Phil Merrell is the ‎Director of Change Consulting, EMEA and Global Change Management Lead at ‎Willis Towers Watson.

Gaby Joyner is the Director of Willis Towers Watson’s Change Consulting practice in Great Britain.

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