Successful Change Leadership, Without the Collateral Damage

The role of change agent is a tough one. Major organizational transitions are often accompanied by “slash and burn” practices that unintentionally sacrifice good people along the way, and no one wants to be the one doing the dirty work. Oftentimes C-level execs are brought in to get the job done and get out; other times the task is left up to HR.

change leadership shiftChange is hard, but by being open and communicating your goals effectively, you can help your team embrace your vision and take the necessary steps forward, together. Real change means more than driving out cost. It has the potential to make your organization and team strongerotherwise, why bother?  You can’t afford to lose your best people and assets in the process, which is why a solid internal communication strategy is crucial during this time.

Case in Point:

A Fortune 50 company had a massive IT department, but there was a disconnect between them and the rest of the company. They were thought of as overhead. The solution: We helped the organization become better marketers through internal communication, and changed the way they talked about (and even thought of) themselves and their value.


Tips for effective leadership and internal communication in times of change:


  • Focus on the customereven if it's an internal customer. 
  • Think about it as a launch, like a new service offering or model.
  • Identify all the stakeholdersemployees, families, board members, internal customers, external customers, frontline staff.
  • Work backward from your frontline staff. Communicate and engage with them early and oftenthey are the brand.
  • Recognize the transition as a marketing challenge, an opportunity to create awareness, engagement, and excitement.
  • Look for gaps and opportunities to improve people, process, and technology.
  • Unite behind a common goal, not a common enemy.
  • Have clear, defined, measurable goals and a robust process. Be aware of when you are and aren’t meeting these objectives, and make adjustments where necessary.
  • Use your networks to your advantage. An article in the Harvard Business Review offers advice for recognizing the formal and informal networks that exist in your organization, and using them to establish trust and commitment to the plan.
  • Answer "What's in it for me?" early and often.
  • Call for action: uncertainty is easier when employees have clearly identified important tasks within their control.
  • Address questions and concerns honestly.


  • Place blame on a certain group or a few individuals for what’s not working.
  • Use the terms “last” or “only”, as in, “This is the last round of layoffs." It might be a promise you have to break, which will cost you credibility.
  • Compromise or appease when something needs to be done; stick to the plan and process.
  • Alienate potential allies. Before counting anyone out, assess what all team members could potentially contribute to, as well as gain from, the transition. Those on the fence or whose value to the plan isn’t immediately apparent could end up being your biggest supporters.