24 Apr 2023

How to Make Change a Little Easier

A Story About Joe, Jane, and their Teams

This article is written by guest author Bob Mason, Managing Partner at The Daedelus Group

Once upon a time, there were two leaders named Joe and Jane. Joe and Jane both led divisions roughly equal in size and responsibility in a large company. Their company had recently implemented some unpopular changes that were disruptive to both divisions. Joe and Jane were expected to manage and implement these changes with their respective teams

Joe was having a lot of trouble getting his team to implement the changes and his team members were openly rebellious. Some were even filing complaints and grievances. Joe was not managing the changes needed within his team well.

Jane's division was also unhappy with the changes but was not openly rebellious. Although they were not in favor of the directed changes, they worked to implement them as best they could. Jane's management of the changes needed within her team was much more effective.

To understand the stark difference between Joe's and Jane's divisions, let's look at the leadership of each division.

Trust Rises and Falls with Leadership Style

Joe is the type of manager leader who knows he's in charge and if you work for him, you better know that too. He prides himself on listening to his workers, but in reality, he only hears them when they agree with him. Communication is almost exclusively one way. Joe doesn't bother to ask anyone else their thoughts before he makes a decision; after all, he's the boss. He has also found it convenient to tell his workers whatever he thinks will keep them quiet, even if it means stretching the truth. Joe isn’t concerned that his team doesn’t seem to trust him. Again, he’s the boss and that’s all that matters.

Jane's leadership style is quite different. She has an easy relationship with her team members and regularly gets out of her office to talk with them. She makes a genuine and obvious effort to understand their concerns. Jane makes it a point to keep her team informed as much as she can and tells them when she isn't able to answer their questions. In those rare cases, she circles back to fill them in whenever she can. She works hard to maintain the team’s trust.

Winners Never Quit, and Quitters Never Win

When the changes were announced at a staff meeting both Joe and Jane knew they would not be popular. Jane asked Greg, the plant manager, for a few minutes after the meeting. Joe just rolled his eyes and said, "There she goes again. Why can't you just do what you're told?" Jane ignored him and after the meeting, she privately and professionally expressed some concerns she knew her team would have. Greg quickly understood she had some valid points. He took her concerns to the company's president who also understood and made some modifications to the changes he was directing.

While Jane was speaking with Greg, Joe went back to his team and told them about the changes, simply instructing them to make it happen. After Jane's meeting with Greg, she gathered her team and explained the changes that had been directed. She told the team that she knew they would not be happy about the changes and mentioned that she had made some suggestions to the plant manager that she hoped would ease the team's implementation of the changes. Regardless, Jane was clear that as a team they would do their best to implement the changes and hopefully find something positive in the experience. She challenged the team to find ways that implementing the directed changes could also help the team.

Jane's division saw that she had represented their concerns and, while they weren't happy with the changes, they knew she would need their support if she was to continue representing them so well. Her challenge encouraged the team to find ways to create a more positive outcome for implementing the changes.

Of course, word spread about Jane's discussion with Greg and she was informally credited with making the directed changes a little more acceptable. Joe's division was upset that he had not supported Jane or them, so they didn't see any reason to support him. They rebelled and many even refused to implement the changes.  

The Moral of our Story

Change isn't always popular and it's sometimes difficult to implement. There are lots of theories about change and how humans respond to it. How teams react and implement change is largely a function of leadership


But there is a basic factor that quite often can make the difference between success and failure-- trust.

Change can be threatening. Especially for people who have been in their job for a long time, change threatens to upset what they have been comfortable with. Changes require change, and sometimes that’s hard. 

Managers who support their team members and find ways to make implementing change more palatable, lead their way to greater success.

When workers trust their managers to represent them and even fight for them, implementing change is much easier.

(The end.)

Do you lead with trust? 

Become a more effective change manager.

Browse courses from The Daedelus Group

Last updated: 24 Apr 2023
Bob Mason
Guest Author, Managing Partner at The Daedelus Group

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