Leading Your Team Down the Path of Change in 4 Steps While change can be stressful, it is inevitable. How you handle it will determine if you sink or float.

By Dr. Kathy Cramer

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

To survive in the competitive world of startups, entrepreneurs need to embrace change, and they need to instill this mentality in their startup culture. (Otherwise, the possibility of success will fall to the wayside and failure will ensue.)

One way to deal with change is to look at it in positive light and view the transition as an opportunity to leap forward. The best way to get a grip on handling change is to focus on four stages: envision, explore, invent and transform. Each stage comes with different emotional resonance and different leadership goals are required to progress to the next one.

Here are some tips on what to do and what emotions you want to engender in your team to drive positive change.

1. Respond -- not react -- to generate curiosity. Your first leadership goal in the face of change is to do whatever it takes to put yourself and your team into the emotional zone of curiosity. You can't be curious if you are worried, angry, or skeptical about giving up the way things were for how they are going to be. When you are curious, you can envision a new future worth living into.

Related: The One Word Leaders Should Stop Using

In the first stage of transformational change, envision, practice responding intentionally to whatever has initiated the process of change. Being responsive is about taking the time to digest what is happening. By stepping back and taking stock, leaders can choose a response that creates energy and stimulates the curiosity of their people, so they too can embrace the change.

2. Stimulate creativity with optimism. In the second stage of change, explore, give each person in your organization the space to generate multiple potential strategies to reach the end goal. First, work with a small team to create a test model of the new strategies required to drive positive change. Next, cascade that model throughout the organization, allowing each level to expand on the details. Eventually, everyone will have a clear picture of their role in the new future. What is more, they have contributed to that picture, which increases their optimism and commitment to making it a reality. Optimism not only helps to put the new vision in focus, it stimulates creativity about how to get there.

Related: Turning Crisis Into Opportunity: 5 Ways to Deal With Hardship

3. Bounce back from setbacks. In the third stage, inventing, you can see the multiple paths forward. All you have to do is test them. You are experimenting and enthusiastic about learning what will bring you closer to achieving your vision.

It is common to encounter setbacks and dead ends as you experiment with what works best. Continually adapting to new ways of operating can be challenging and your team will be watching you for any sign of wavering. That is why you must be bold in showing your resolve and your ability to bounce back. You can do this by openly acknowledging failed strategies, being proactive in the face of setbacks and continuing to experiment until you find what works best. You just need to make sure you show enthusiasm when confronting any hurdles, as this resilience will give your team another reason to trust your leadership and your future vision.

4. Praise specific efforts in an atmosphere of gratitude. This final stage in the change process –transform -- is the one that yields results.

We learn best if we take the time to deconstruct what happened. Praising effort in a specific and detailed way leads to a greater understanding about what drove success. Then, you can internalize the new behaviors and strategies and repeat them.

As you celebrate and learn from your success, you and your team will automatically shift to a place of gratitude. Gratitude is the most rewarding of all the positive emotions. It is the acknowledgment of a major victory with humility. As a leader, showing your genuine gratitude to others helps to build trust, form lasting relationships, and inspire admiration.

Related: The Personality Trait That Most Often Predicts Success

Wavy Line

Dr. Kathy Cramer is managing partner of The Cramer Institute and author of Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do 


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