So you’re leading a team through ABW?

5 tips to help leaders navigate teams through resistance and change.

I was recently leading a workshop to design an ABW concept for a client, and one of the participants came up to me during a break and said to me in the most open and genuine way, “Allison, I don’t know how to manage my team through resistance.”

It dawned on me that though I’ve spent my career encountering and managing resistance through ABW implementations, these leaders would be in for a real challenge as their journey to shift to a new way of working was just beginning, and many of these leaders were doing this for the first time. It got me thinking about the majority of leaders in organisations today who haven’t led through transformational changes.

Leaders have a Tough and often Lonely Job

Not only do they need to create strategies and deliver business outcomes, they also have to manage employees and navigate their teams through today’s complex business environment. Most significantly, these days, great leaders are also expected to motivate and inspire through change. That’s a hefty job description, if you ask me. So where does one begin to navigate the ambiguity and unknown? In one word, it starts with empathy.

1. Start with Reminding yourself that you are Human

Leaders oftentimes bear the weight of change on their shoulders as if they are supposed to have and will have all the answers. However leaders tend to forget that they are human, too, and must first let go of this false expectation to know it all. This creates some space for leaders to first, and foremost, lead themselves through their own resistance to change. ABW introduces a major paradigm shift that challenges everyday routines and norms. That is huge, and if leaders can give themselves the space to ask themselves what challenges they may be facing as individuals through change, then they stand a chance in putting themselves in their team’s shoes to understand the journey they are all about to embark on.

2. Ask Genuine Questions

Having asked yourself the tough questions, which probably sounded something like this:

  • “Is this new way of working important to me? If so, why?”
  • “What do I stand to gain or lose?”
  • “What will I personally struggle with in transitioning to a new way of working?”
  • “What am I personally committed to do to manage myself through this change?”

You now allow yourself to relate to others, having gone through your own process. Go out and ask your team members these big, honest questions. Individuals will struggle with different things, so in order to meet them where they are at, you have to ask what the “problem” is first before jumping to solutions.

3. If you ask, be Prepared to Listen

Listen, not solve. The temptation is always there to alleviate someone’s suffering by rushing to solutions. However, the transition to a new way of working does not happen overnight, and some ambiguity and struggle will be involved in changing patterns and habits. This tension is where the growth and learning lies. Listen to your team’s feedback, and listen with the care and concern you would show a close friend who is sharing something important and oftentimes sensitive.

4. Find Support through Fellow Leaders in the Organisation

They, themselves, may be going through the same process and challenges with their teams. Starting a conversation to share knowledge and experiences across leaders will build support and resilience through change and also help you develop your own capabilities to lead through change.

5. Share the Problem to Find a Solution

Sharing your team’s feedback with other leaders creates an opportunity to share the “burden” of solutioning with others.  It identifies commonalities in concerns to address more holistically across the organisation. This challenges leaders to create fewer but better, more meaningful and impactful solutions.

So some of you may be wondering why go through this pain? Seems like a lot of emotional work. Well, it is. But there’s a pay back in it. Organisations that invest in leading through change have more success in their ability to achieve the outcomes they set out for in their new way of working and also see bottom line benefits. We see it time and time again. And through the experience of ABW, your organisation and its leaders develop a key competence for the future, one that is heavily sought after these days but rarely achieved – change agility. Ultimately, though, organisations need to answer this for themselves. Knowing how difficult change is, what future do you seek that will make it worth it?

Share your thoughts to continue the conversation.

Allison Tsao
Australia & New Zealand Want to know more? Contact
+61 431 847 327 allison@veldhoencompany.com