How Emotional Intelligence Can Power Change Management:  Tips for Managers in Forward-Thinking Organizations

In organizations big and small, change is constant: shifting strategies, re-prioritization of projects, changing team dynamics, changing macroeconomic conditions, integrating new technologies, navigating the impact of innovations like ai in the workplace, and so much more. If this is making your head spin, you’re not alone. 

That might be why ​​70% of change initiatives fail due to employee resistance and lack of management support (McKinsey & Company).

This presents a big problem for leaders, who must find a way to rally employees to adapt in an engaged and agile way in order to create thriving organizations. In the best case, companies are able to mitigate the impact of instability, learn from challenges as they arise, and use the change as an opportunity to inspire both individual and collective growth. 

It’s clear that excelling at change management gives teams a competitive edge. But how can you improve your ability to lead through organizational change? Emotional intelligence strategies are crucial. Here are a few of our favorites: 

Communicate Honestly (even when the conversation is hard) 

It’s all too common for leadership to make top-level changes without fully considering the effects on employees throughout the company. According to a 2022 Gartner survey, 75% of organizations are using a top-down approach to change. Want to build trust within your remote team? Acknowledge the impact (without dwelling on it) and create an environment that encourages open dialogue and feedback from the affected stakeholders. It’s important to lead with compassion and recognize that employees experience change differently based on their role within the organization, personal levels of resilience, individual preferences and assumptions, and any existing personal or professional challenges that they are already facing. 

This is why as a manager it is important to stay aware of how your team and your direct reports are handling the change, and determine how you can best support them through it. Rather than making assumptions, proactively create forums for open communication about the changes that occur, both as a team and one-on-one. This might look like a team meeting that is dedicated to discussing the challenges and opportunities that change presents, or scheduled office hours for anyone to discuss the impact of change directly with you. 

Difficult conversations might arise from opening the communication channels. However, it’s through these courageous conversations that you can build trust and psychological safety, and ensure your team is supported throughout the disruption.

Cultivate a Growth Mindset 

A growth mindset sets the foundation for embracing change, yet many of us get stuck in its opposite: a “fixed mindset.” 

Psychologist and Stanford Professor Carol Dweck introduced the terms “fixed vs growth mindset” in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dweck shares that those with a fixed mindset believe that their qualities, skills, and intelligence are fixed traits that are unchangeable. A growth mindset means that you believe your skills and intelligence can be improved with discipline and perseverance.  

Cultivating self-awareness can help you identify if you have a fixed mindset. Oftentimes a fixed mindset can lead to rigidity and an inability to cope with change because you believe that you lack the necessary skills to improve and adapt your way of working. Change, then, becomes an even scarier proposition.  

A growth mindset believes in possibility and is open to change.

Now, you as an individual might understand this concept, but how can you, as a leader, inspire your team to do the same? First, embodying the principles of a growth mindset will give your team a good example of how to apply the theory to the practical realities of their work.

Next, consider what questions you can make a part of personal and team reflection. Some to consider: “What can we learn from this challenge we’re facing?” “How can we use this as a building block to be more effective, inclusive, or collaborative?”

Build Motivation through Purpose and Alignment 

Organizational change directly impacts the way employees spend their days, potentially leading to confusion and even de-motivation. If your team is asked to allocate time in their work day to any new project, they’ll want to understand the intent, long-term vision, and aspired outcomes of the initiative. 

Align on purpose by treating change like a new project launch, meeting to share openly about the impact, outcomes, and growth potential this change offers their career. It’s easy to get caught up in the details and day-to-day work, but bringing your team into the bigger picture is essential to help cultivate the intrinsic motivation needed to do their best work.

Cultivating a sense of purpose also leads to improved engagement at work, one of the most important factors in successful change management. What can you do as a manager to help your team engage more? Cultivate the link between the work they’re doing and their purpose. Get to know your team as individuals. What drives them? What are their strengths and growth areas? Consider how you might support them to stay “on purpose” and engaging in projects that light them up to keep the fuel running throughout the transition.  

Organizational and social change is likely to continue at a rapid pace, so it’s up to you as a leader to cultivate the skills, mindset, and influence needed to build agile and resilient teams for the changes that lie ahead.  Emotional intelligence provides many powerful tools to guide your change management process and use it as an opportunity to build trust and resilience within your team.

We Can Help

And…we’re here to help! Learn how to embrace change and cultivate a growth mindset on your team with our program, Effective Teaming.