The diagram above shows the 8 steps for change and what we find is that people often start at step 4 and communicating for buy-in, but the first three steps are absolutely key in getting people engaged and involved early on and helping them to understand the change – missing these 3 steps is often the cause of resistance to change in our experience.

“Change is the only constant in life” this quote has been credited to many Greek philosophers, but it was Heraclitus who is said to have created it, and if this is the case, why do we sometimes struggle with change, especially in the workplace?

Well, research has shown that our brains hate change. Our brains are naturally driven to:-

  • Seek rewards and certainty
  • Minimize their energy use
  • Avoid threats and pain

Understanding how our brains work and react, and what we can do as leaders, can be the difference between losing or keeping key team members during an organisational change. Through bespoke leadership programmes, we encourage our clients to work on developing strong, senior level leaders and managers because having confident individuals that can coach and support others is an incredible way of ensuring high engagement and productivity through uncertainty. It’s about knowing how and when to ask the right questions, looking out for signs of overwhelm and unease, and knowing how to maintain strong, empathetic communication through-out.

When our teams (and ourselves for that matter) find themselves inside organisations that are about to undergo change, their worst fears seem to come true all at once. The brain, instantly craving certainty in an uncertain environment and wanting to avoid the threats and potential pain.

However, a good coach can help you to reassure the brains of your team in the following ways:

  • Normalise resistance to change– explain to people that our brains are naturally wired to resist change. It’s normal to feel nervous and want to resist.
  • Brains act when perceived rewards are greater than perceived threats– Invite everyone to explore the benefits of change together – what’s in it for them? What will they gain? What can they get excited about?
  • As far as possible, meet the brains need for certainty throughout the process-provide lots of reassurance and keep talking about the change and what it means. Even if there’s no update, share that! It’s important not to leave people to wonder and fill in the blanks.
  • Lead change with excitement and enthusiasm– our emotions are contagious, so ensure you role model expected behaviours. This can be a challenge, especially as you may also be finding the change difficult yourself. Move into empathy and remember it’s OK to share that you’re feeling the nerves too but remain positive.
  • Recognise progress and wins as the change happens– our brains love to celebrate, which lifts our mood! Keep up the communication and share all the progress, big and small.

The 3-part process to support successful change

One of the many pitfalls managers make is to think of change as a planned and managed organisational process. Again, a good leader can coach a team to navigate unexpected turns and challenges with ease and curiosity.

William Bridges, a Change consultant who created the Transition Model back in 1979, suggested that there is a difference between change and the psychological process of transition. The difference between these is subtle but important.

According to Bridge’s Transition model, change is something that happens to people, even if they don’t agree with it. Transition, on the other hand, is internal: it’s what happens in people’s minds as they go through change. Change can happen very quickly, while transition usually occurs more slowly. People need supporting through the 3-part psychological process of transition. The 3 parts are.

Endings, losing and letting go – People enter this initial stage of transition when they are first presented with change. This stage is often marked with resistance and emotional upheaval because people are being forced to let go of something that they are comfortable with or value highly. As leaders we can;

  • Understand what has ended for the people you are leading.
  • Help them to face up to the nature of the ‘loss/change’ and acknowledging it openly and sympathetically.
  • Appreciate that this ‘loss/change’ will result in resistance.
  • As the primary fear is the unknown, describe the change in as much detail as possible. Leave as few blanks as possible.
  • Don’t ridicule the past.

The Neutral zone – People affected by the change can often feel confused, uncertain, and impatient. Depending on how well you’re managing the change, they may also experience a higher workload as they get used to new systems and new ways of working. As leaders we can;

  • Help them to understand that the old way has ended, and the new way is being established to improve things.
  • Show understanding that they may feel uncertainty, self-doubt, and be less productive for a short period.
  • Provide one-to-one support if they are overwhelmed. Knowing how to coach a team member in these times can be a huge retention tool!
  • Provide them with opportunities to create new thinking; set short term goals, celebrate small wins, provide training, and keep communicating.

The New beginnings – The last transition stage is a time of acceptance and energy. People have begun to embrace the change initiative. They’re building the skills they need to work successfully in the new way, and they’re starting to see early wins from their efforts. Here certainty returns and the new way feels comfortable. As leaders we need to be aware though that this stage can last a long time.

If you have an accountant, they should be your first stop for business advice. If you don’t have an accountant or they can’t help, BuBul has a wide range of experts available. For more advice, contact our experts* Michelle and Lee at Pro-Development:



01904 628838


*We’ve picked experts we know and trust who are good at what they do. All of them will give you at least an extra 30 minutes free advice if you contact them and would then charge their normal prices. They don’t pay to be on BuBul and don’t give us any money from anything they earn as an expert.