Leading through disruption and change

Whether in our personal or work lives, it can feel like everything is changing at the speed of light. Technology and consumer preferences continue to drive businesses to adapt and modernize their infrastructure and their customer experiences to remain relevant. But what often gets overlooked is the magnitude of what it takes for people and the culture they exist in to change.

Leaders have many tasks they’re responsible for — the most important of which is tending to and creating an inspired workforce through the company culture.

During the phases of change, there can be drastic difference between what leadership mistakenly expects and what actually happens in most cases with employees. It’s known as the J-curve effect.

A lot can be gained in understanding the stages of change and how each person receives that change. Along this same path, the impacted employees go through stages: shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.

What can leaders do to improve the experience and shorten the J-curve duration during transformation and change?

  • Mobilize an active/visible executive sponsor. During moments of transformation and change, it’s critical for an executive sponsor to be involved. People need to see who is leading the way and be reassured there is a well-defined path of escalation and explanation when things aren’t clear.
  • Dedicate organizational change management resources. Actual experts in OCM shouldn’t be overlooked. Either training someone on the team or an outside expert is worth the investment. They can provide a readiness assessment prior to the change to allow your senior team to focus on areas with the biggest gap.
  • Engage employees and middle managers. As with an active, visible sponsor at an executive level, frontline employees look to their direct managers for guidance. This is the most important relationship and trust is critical. If the manager doesn’t understand the reason for the change or is resistant to the change, it’s very challenging to engage employees in the change process.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate — frequently and openly. This is arguably the simplest part of the process, yet it is often missed. Leadership, fundamentally, is about communication. Knowing the audience and providing them with information and progress on the change is critical.

Change is messy, and never perfect. As a leader, there are ways to improve the speed and adoption of change. Never take the change process for granted and don’t assume that everyone understands or accepts the need for change. By implementing these proven techniques, you can dramatically improve the change process for your employees and organization.


John Ammendola is the president and CEO of Grange Insurance. Since taking his role in 2014, John has been instrumental in leading the organization through a journey of transformation to ensure the company continues to not just survive but thrive in the future.