Written by Milena Velez, Consulting Team Leader, Blacksmith

A few years ago I was working in an environment of constant change.  Some areas of the business were shrinking and others were just ramping up.  In the corridors, meeting rooms and lunchrooms my colleagues were leading and responding to change daily.

I too was impacted by a reporting line change that left me feeling deflated and hurt.  Here are three things I heard first and second-hand that I believe should never be said by change leaders again:

1- “What happened in the past is irrelevant…let’s focus on the future”

Over time employees feel a huge connection to what they have contributed to an organisation.  Statements like these are unhelpful as they dismiss people’s hard work, dedication and past experience.

A more helpful approach is to acknowledge the accomplishments achieved and focus on how the changes are designed to provide more opportunities in the future for the organisation, it’s people and it’s customers.

2- “These changes are great! I can’t understand why you’re not on board.”

This is unhelpful because the leader failed to understand their people’s feelings.

What would be more helpful is flex their empathy muscle by saying “I can see that you don’t like the change.  Let’s have a coffee so I can understand your perspective.”  Empathy gets confused with sympathy.  To understand the difference, check out this short video by Brene Brown: The Power of Empathy.

3- “Don’t worry.  You’ll be okay.  It will all work out.”

If you’re saying this you are glossing over the emotions of fear and uncertainty that your people are experiencing.  To them the change looks unknown, unproven and downright freaky.

Jason Clarke has a great Ted Talk called Embracing Change.  In it he shares that a more helpful conversation is to give your people a head’s up that the ride will be bumpy and that you are available to listen, to support and to provide context for the change.

During change teams look to their leaders for acknowledgement, empathy and support.

The tips above will help you grow your reputation as a leader regardless of the type and impact of change you are leading.