How well does your team handle change? Does the end of a big project or the start of a new project create anxiety or excitement? Is your company going through an organizational change or reorganization, and shifting teams around or transferring employees to new teams?

These kinds of change can be very stressful for a team. It creates what I call the FUD Factor: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Leading your team through these stressful times, with as little upset as possible, is a critical teamwork skill.

leadership skills - dealing with changeA team, like an individual, goes through four stages during a time of change:

Comfort: Like a room we’re used to being in, a team that is performing well often gets into a comfort zone. While it’s a nice place to be, there’s little challenge or growth in this stage.

Denial: At the first announcement of a change, team members may express disbelief that it is happening. “Management is just testing us.” Or, “It’ll never work.”

Confusion: This can be the most stressful stage during a time of change. The team may have accepted that a change is occurring, but they’re uncertain about what the future holds and may be insecure about their place in the company or on the team.

Renewal: Once a change has occurred or a solution found, and the future becomes clearer, the team settles down and begins looking forward to the new set of challenges created by the change that took place.

During this process, don’t let the FUD Factor take over. Don’t let Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt cloud team members’ judgment and influence their behaviors and decisions. Keep things positive and hopeful. Celebrate small victories like goal achievements. This helps team members see that they’re still valued and that they still have a place on the team, even if responsibilities and roles are in flux (depending on the change that is taking place).

The FUD Factor can strike anywhere during the process. When a change is first announced, fear and anxiety may be employees’ first reactions. Later, uncertainty and doubt can creep in. You’ll hear it in their voices: “This reorganization won’t improve anything; things will be the same once they’re done messing everything up.”

Keep team members focused during the process of change and in the aftermath. Depending on the breadth and depth of the change that occurs, getting through the process can take anywhere from a few days to several months. It’s time to use your leadership skills to the fullest to keep the team on task, aware of the goals, the mission and the vision for the organization. They’ll spend more time thinking about their responsibilities and how to achieve those goals, and less time worrying about what that change will mean for them.

One Team, One DreamExcerpted from One Team, One Dream by Gregg Gregory

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