trust

How to Lead Your Team Through Personal Change

A client, let’s call her Liz, made a huge transformation.  Putting it mildly, she used to have an anger management issue.  She was the executive that you never wanted as a boss.  At times, she would be super nice and seem like she was your best friend, but if you crossed her or screwed something up that embarrassed her, she could be brutal. After we worked together for about a year, everyone began noticing a remarkable change.  Frankly, it was a change that happened faster than most.  To be clear, she made the change. She took the change process very seriously. She had great desire and she really embraced the coaching process.

After the year was up, she noticed that some people with whom she had not had much contact were still walking on eggshells around her.  They were unaware of her change.

Here is what I saw her do that helped others to trust the change:

1. Explain the change.

When she saw people were walking on eggshells with her, she would explain that she had gone through a change because she had worked on the anger issue.  She would not go into a lot of details, but a simple acknowledgement went far.

2. Apologize for the previous behaviors.

She then apologized for the role she had played in leading the person to walk on eggshells.  She said things like, “At times I was out of control, overly brutal, and completely unempathetic.  I was like a bull seeing red.  I am sorry for the impact I had on you.”

3. Be patient as they speak while they are still on guard.

As she noticed that people were still on edge, even after her explanation and apology, she showed a great deal of patience.  She shared with me, “Eventually they will know that the change is real.  In the meantime, I just need to stay the course.”

4. Slightly soften tone to convey that you are going to be calm.

When she noticed that they were getting on edge, especially if they made a mistake, she softened up more by adjusting her tone and body language.

When you soften your tone and relax, people start to reflect that posture. That helps them to lose the edge.  She also did a great job assuring them that she would remain calm and that they were going to fix the problem together.

5. Take them out to lunch or coffee so they can experience the new you.

She took a few key people out to lunch or coffee outside of the office.  This helped them to experience her in a different setting.  It was really important for them to see that she was authentic.  If something happened that she felt angry about, she expressed it; but she also shared what she does with the anger to bring it down.

What is hard to remember when you make a real transformation is that other people have to adjust to your change.

Unfortunately, when you make a real change, others can become uncomfortable around you, especially when the change is a positive one.

Positive change can bring about a level of conviction in others, if they are not growing.  It can also bring doubt that the change is real which impacts the level of trust.

It is important to stay the course. It's also important to have people around you who will encourage you to stay the course, and even grow more.

Eventually people will adjust and, hopefully, enjoy the new you.

Chew On This:

  • If you are working towards transforming yourself, how can you prepare your team for the change?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams. *This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.