How To Lead Your Staff Through Major Change

6 Tips To Help You Be Successful

Change is a scary thing for both the leader and those that follow him. While fears may arise, it doesn’t have to result in paralysis or retreat. You can help your team to be better on the other side. Here’s how…

via Patrick Nouhailler @ Flickr Creative Commons

via Patrick Nouhailler @ Flickr Creative Commons

As a school principal, I’m well acquainted with change. In Indiana, education has made national headlines for the depths of reform. Some changes brought about by legislation has been for the better while others have pushed some into early retirement.

1. Compliance Without Concession

As a leader, not all changes are your within your power. These are the most difficult because in order to comply, you have to emphasize and charge into areas that you don’t necessarily agree with.

If you are in this situation, the first thing your team needs to know is that we will comply but that doesn’t mean that we are giving up on the things we hold as core to our values.

They understand that some things are out of your control. But they also need to know that you are still with them in this transition; that you’ve not abandoned them or the values we hold dear.

2. Get Educated

Be completely clear on the objective. Your staff will depend on you to understand what is changing, how that affects the organization, and to have a clear target for them to achieve.

This isn’t easy. Leading your team while your superiors (legislators in my case) are still figuring out the direction is extremely difficult. I likened it to building a car while simultaneously driving it down the road.

But you can still make decisions based upon:

  • the general predictions of new policy and legislation;
  • trend data from within your organization;
  • self-assessing your organization’s readiness for change

3. Create a Communication Plan

To make sure you are covering your bases, you should have a plan in place. How will you reach everyone with the message that they need to hear? How often? Through what venues?

These are all important questions. I’ve included a template for you that you can access here. Click Here to Download

4. Say It Until You’re Tired of Saying It, Then Say It Again

This is a lesson I’ll never forget. I remember a teacher that had heard my message numerous times through a weekly staff email, at least 3 different staff meetings, and just as many one-on-one meetings. Twice, even her colleagues tried to explain it to her, and she still struggled.

I had thought that we were ready to move on since it had been repeated numerous times. When I found out she still hadn’t wrapped her mind around what we were getting ready to do, I was completely dumbfounded.

At that point I realized that even though I as the leader had spent countless hours thinking and strategizing about this particular move, it didn’t mean that she had. Even though the message was being presented didn’t mean that it was being received.

It finally took one last face-to-face for her to truly hear what I was really saying.

5. Say It Through Different Mediums

People learn through different venues. Some are visual and need to see the process drawn out through a flow chart. Some are auditory and need to hear it presented multiple times in multiple ways.

Some might need to have numerous conversations so their fears can be relieved and their questions can be answered.

6. Have Some Fun In The Process

Don’t be so focused on the objective that you forget about the people. They need to relax to be at their best.

Major change can be stressful. Good teams will change because they have to. Great teams will change and enjoy the process.

As the leader of your team, you have to help the transition be as enjoyable as possible. You can do this by not taking yourself too seriously, having friendly competitions, rewarding hard work (jean day works great!), etc.


As a leader, YOU MUST KEEP SMILING! Let your team see that you love being at this job. Change can either make you better, or make you obsolete. If you take advantage of the changing wind, you can adjust your sails and be propelled farther than you ever dreamed.

QUESTION: What steps do you need to take to prepare your staff for the major changes that are coming?

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