How to Build Trust and Lead Your Team Through Change

Change is hard. Change is also constant. Leading through change isn’t just about a defined event but something that leaders need to deal with every day. Your ability to lead effectively through the big changes is directly related to how you lead through the day to day changes.

I’ve led teams through a lot of changes. It requires you to have a high degree of EQ and I think for many (myself included) it’s a learned trait. If you desire to be an effective change leader realize it takes work and lot of personal reflection and growth.

Being successful in leading change all comes down to trust. Does your team trust you? Do they trust you have their best interests in mind or are you only pursuing your best interests? Do they trust you care about their welfare? Do they trust you have a plan? Do they trust things will be better tomorrow even though today may be difficult?

Trust leads to engagement and engagement is what determines how effectively an organization embraces change.

What are some concrete steps you can take with your team?


  • Have a plan and stick to it: Telling people big changes are coming and to just wait for more details is one sure way to have your people start updating their resumes. Big changes require a lot of work. If you don’t have a real strategy then don’t make changes until you do.
  • Communicate often and honestly. It’s OK if you don’t have all the answers but tell people what the plan is. Even small, everyday changes should be communicated and understood by the team. For big changes, be honest on what you can and can’t share and what the team can expect.

Give a reason to believe:

  • This goes hand in hand with communication. Why will things be better tomorrow for your team? What’s the vision?
  • Engage your team to have them feel part of the process. Even when I’ve been involved with large, corporate strategies there were elements team members could engage in. Engagement is what will determine success or failure of your grand plan.

Balance consensus building with proving direction:

  • People want to be heard. Your team needs to feel as if they have a voice and are involved in the change process. You need to balance soliciting input with over-sharing. You signed up to be a leader so your hard day doesn’t matter.
  • You need to be the leader. Listen to input but at the end of the day own the decisions. I firmly believe that accountability starts at the top. If you only seek consensus then nothing will ever get done. If you don’t build any consensus your team won’t buy into the change.

Be a real person:

  • Being an effective leader doesn’t mean being a robot or ruling from the corner office. Take time to address the concerns of the team and don’t just play lip service. Take the time to show the team that their worth to you is more than what they can do for you.
  • Be mindful of the fact that people’s lives will be impacted by these changes. It may be as large as losing a job or as seemingly as small as doing part of their job differently but there will be change. You are disrupting people’s security and stability in some way and that can be frightening for many.

Without change we don’t improve and adapt but not all change is successful. Even the best laid plans fall apart if not executed properly. Your leadership style will help determine the outcome.