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7 Proven Strategies for Managers to Lead Teams Through Uncertainty

In today’s volatile business environment, change happens rapidly. We experience one global disruption after another. Combine that with internal politics and uncertainty around the recession, modern workforces need to be resilient. 

The problem? Change management is notoriously difficult for most managers. Studies show that around two-thirds of all change initiatives fail. The biggest culprits are poor planning, lack of communication, and subpar training.

To keep businesses afloat and team morale high during uncertainty, managers need to respond fast and empower employees to embrace change positively—no matter how difficult it may seem.

Unsure where to start? Whether you’re a new or experienced manager, discover seven techniques for leading your team through change, creating stability and building resilience across your workforce.

How managers can lead through change

Employees look to their managers for support during tough seasons in business. 

Here’s how you can lead through change, no matter how uncertain the future may seem.

  1. Get buy-in from your team
  2. Role model clear communication
  3. Encourage employees to test new ideas 
  4. Offer practical training
  5. Foster a culture of trust
  6. Prioritize staff wellbeing
  7. Keep your team up to date 

1. Get buy-in from your team

Have you ever been told to do something without reason? The likelihood of committing to the change depends on fully understanding the reasons behind it.

Let’s say your CEO has invested in new HR technology. You think your current system works great, so when a manager introduces the change, you’re confused and unexcited. 

Now imagine you have been involved in the decision-making processes. You learned more about your team and other departments’ struggles. As a result, you fully understand the reasons behind the change and feel a sense of urgency to use the new system.

The same principle applies to your team; employees are 4.6x more likely to perform better if they feel heard. Organizations with high levels of engagement also experience lower employee turnover and higher productivity and profitability.

So, before delivering new guidance, make a compelling case by setting your vision and bringing the entire team on board. Explain what’s driving the change and listen to their concerns. You’ll increase the likelihood of change initiatives sticking in the long term.

2. Role model clear communication

Almost three-quarters of employees feel they are missing out on important company updates—a misinformation problem that costs businesses $62.4 million annually.

Good communication provides clarity and direction. Manage change efficiently with transparent and open communication methods—whether that’s starting a new company Slack channel or emailing the organization to update them on changes to your staffing structure.

Foster a “we’re all in this together” approach by empowering employees to ask questions through various channels, such as an open-door policy or being available at the end of the day. 

Alternatively, host an employee resource group for teams to connect and discuss change. Invite staff members to lead and facilitate the group, sharing updated information from managers and listening to staff concerns and questions. This type of networking opportunity gives each department the opportunity to share ideas and listen to concerns surrounding change. 

3. Encourage employees to test new ideas

Teams can be reluctant to change if it’s surrounded by uncertainty. The more resilient your team is, the more likely they are to buy into change initiatives. 

“Sometimes change seems scary because there’s not enough thought behind the planning,” Lissa Songpitak, Head of Revenue Enablement at Enable says. “When you change one thing, other things can change. So, leaders need to keep all of the big rocks in mind. What big rocks are we prioritizing to fit all the other small rocks around that?”

Build resilience in the workforce by encouraging employees to test ideas in low-risk environments. If your sales team wants to explore the idea of working remotely, for example, introduce a flexible working policy for a two-week period. 

Monitor productivity levels over the test period and have employees report back. Did they enjoy the flexibility? Did any issues arise during the experiment (like being unable to focus around home distractions)?

Not only will these experiments show employees that their suggestions are being taken seriously, but when employees are involved in change from the get-go, you can make better decisions.

Take this one step further and encourage your team to share their learning with the wider team, regardless of the outcome. Encourage employees to update a weekly team bulletin or Slack channel, and praise staff for helping build your organization’s learning culture.

4. Offer practical training

A lack of training can stall progress—and in some cases, seriously affect the success of the change. Employees won’t feel confident accepting new challenges if they don’t feel well-equipped to do so.

Let’s put that into practice and say the company is separating customer service into two departments: pre- and post-purchase support. Instead of routing customer inquiries to one support email address, there’s a new customer relationship management (CRM) tool to filter and divert requests.

Employees might be resistant to change if they’re unsure of how to use the CRM—or why they even need one. 

In that case, explain how the CRM can make your team’s lives easier with smart automations and centralized data. Upload a demonstration of how to use the new software to your learning management system (LMS), and create a test account for each department to test before the new process comes into effect.

This type of practical training appeals to different learning styles, but removes the single biggest barrier your team has to change: uncertainty. 

5. Foster a culture of trust

Managers and leaders set the tone for trust within an organization, yet only 78 percent of employees trust their employer.

Foster a culture of trust where everyone feels safe and secure in times of uncertainty. 

“When you talk about trust, it’s not a trust like, ‘oh, I can trust you.’ No, trust is the ability for you to move faster because you’re trusting somebody else to have your back. You trust the system, you trust each other, and you trust your organization.”


Manny Medina, CEO and Co-Founder, Outreach


Read more: Creating a Winning Workplace Culture

Allow people to express themselves freely, and create an environment where workers can come to you for support. It’ll sow the seeds of trust and make your team feel comfortable coming to you when they’re feeling confused.

Help employees trust their managers by:

  • Being authentic and approachable
  • Setting expectations and being honest about what changes you can and cannot make
  • Following through on your promises (or explaining why you can’t)
  • Admitting when you’ve made a mistake
  • Identifying reasons for change resistance and brainstorming ways to overcome them

6. Prioritize staff wellbeing

Successful change management needs a watchful eye. No matter how hard to try to anticipate uncertainty and plan ahead, not everyone on your team will welcome change.

One report found 59 percent of employees think their supervisor doesn’t provide them with enough support to manage workplace stress. Because of this, you need to be proactive with employee support—especially when the team is going through change or uncertainty. 

Simple ways to support employees with their mental health include:

  • Relaxing or reprioritizing project deadlines 
  • Encouraging employees to take their paid time off (PTO)
  • Offering therapy as part of your company’s healthcare or benefits package 
  • Scheduling regular 1:1 meetings with employees to share concerns confidentially 
  • Hosting an employee resource group, such as a #mental-heath channel in your company Slack, for teams to share their concerns 

7. Keep your team up to date

It was difficult enough to have something unexpected shock the team. But to make matters worse, a few weeks into your change initiative, something else forces you to hit the brakes and reevaluate. 

No matter how much you prepare and support employees through change, it’s not uncommon to be blindsided. 

The best thing to do in this situation is to keep employees up to date. Teams look to their managers for guidance and direction in times of uncertainty. If something out of the ordinary stalls progress, employees will be confused if they don’t know why. 

Keep communicating with your team even if you don’t have all the answers yet. Give staff an explanation behind the uncertainty, the ideas you’re brainstorming, and welcome their feedback. This process helps to build trust. There’s no reason for employees to feel frustrated that they’re out of the loop. 

Successfully lead your team through organizational change  

Change doesn’t have to derail your organization—so long as employees have a manager they can lean on for support. 

Use these techniques to lead your team through periods of uncertainty. From encouraging experiments to delivering practical training, you’ll get employee buy-in and an opportunity to create excitement about new ways of working. 

Discover how WorkRamp can help you build agile, resilient teams and influential managers. Contact us to schedule a free, personalized demo.

Complete the form for a custom demo.

Elise Dopson

WorkRamp Contributor

Elise Dopson is a freelance writer for B2B SaaS companies. She’s also the co-founder of Peak Freelance and mom to an adorable Spaniel pup.

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