In one of my recent blogs, I wrote about overcoming the fear of change. This week I am going to explore two other emotions that are essential when leading change: trust and hope. Too often we focus on the goals of change; what needs to be changed and how we do it. The fault of this approach to change is that it doesn’t leave much room for creating the emotional dimension for change. 

Incorporating trust and hope into a change initiative

In my experience, when staff members don’t have trust in those facilitating change and they can’t see how the change will create a better future –  then they won’t actively support the change and bring their time and talents to change work.  Without emotional resources, we can drive change by using positional power, but it won’t be sustainable. In other words, positional power will cause the old behavior, habits, and mindsets will resurface, and the new habits of the change projects will weaken and eventually erode the change.

Trust is an essential precondition for any change effort. If there isn’t trust between the team and the facilitator of change, then there won’t be trust in the outcome of change either. For example, if the person leading change isn’t trusted by those who will be affected by the change, the change work will lack support. Those who are affected might comply or maliciously comply, but they won’t bring their active engagement into the change process.

Change flows through relationships we have with our staff at the speed of trust!

Here are three ways I have found to incorporate trust into change: 

  1. Pause and assess the level of trust you have with the people you are engaging in organizational change. If it isn’t strong enough, pause and go to step 2. 
  2. Build trusted relationships before you initiate change.
  3. Create authentic relationships.

For number three, you must first get to know each other outside positional roles.  If our relationships are built on positional roles only, they won’t be strong enough to create the trust needed to facilitate change. When we step outside of our organizational role, we invite people into a relationship with us as people. The amount of sharing is up to the comfort level of the people involved, but some sharing that creates and deepens the connection between people generates a source of trust that creates conditions conducive to change. This simple principle is often violated when a new organizational leader wants to initiate change within a few months of arriving without first taking the time to build trust with their staff. Resistance is a simple metric for facilitators to measure. When it shows up, check the emotional side of the change initiative. It usually means that there is a deficit of trust and hope in the organization.

Remember, people pay attention to both what we say and how we behave. Communication research states that people will trust body language and actions over the words that are spoken. If you want trust to be stronger within your team, then your words, body language, and actions must align. When there are conflicts between the words you use and your actions, the trust between you and your staff will diminish.

Strengthening hope in the change process

Previously I have written three blogs on finding active hope, strengthening active hope, and inspiring active hope in others. These blogs will give you more details on how to lead in a way that understands the link between hope and people’s support for a better future. For leaders who are facilitating change, we must answer the following questions:

  • How will this change create a better future for the organization, the team, and the world?
  • How can I inspire others’ hope that as a team we will be able to accomplish this change? 

If these two questions aren’t incorporated into the change initiative, there won’t be enough hopefulness (an emotion) held in the team and it will affect their willingness to risk and lean into the future. Instead, you will start experiencing overt and covert resistance to the change initiative.