navigate change

Navigating change: how to be visible and protect yourself

UPDATE: Check out this week’s Facebook Live on this topic, which does a deep dive with some practical steps not included in this blog post: 


The foundation of navigating change in your organization’s leadership is managing up. You must align your work and results with the priority initiatives of your (new) leadership.

While you should make it a regular practice to manage up, it’s especially important with leadership changes because managing up is where you start. If your organization is experiencing leadership change, follow this roadmap to ensure you are visible and protected through the slew of inevitable adjustments that will come.

Learn to manage up if you aren’t already.

When you manage up well, (1) you know the top priorities of your leadership, and (2) you align your activities and results with those top priorities.

If you are working in teams, do this level of managing up collectively to ensure the initiatives the team is working on don’t get lost in the shuffle.

Navigating change is actually about identifying and filling gaps, not eliminating redundancies.

If you are a manager of individuals, a manager of managers, or admin/operations staff, you might feel as though the result of change management is resolving redundancies. In other words, is your job at risk? How do you ensure that you are positioning that alignment as favorably as possible to avoid being categorized as redundant?

Remember that there is a larger purpose to the change. Very few organizations enact change in order to simply get rid of people. That’s simply one possible result of the change.

In order to navigate change well, keep in mind the ultimate purpose of the change. Will the organization go in a different direction? Is the company responding to anticipated market shifts? The ultimate goal in change is often to fill known gaps in order to take advantage of an opportunity. Therefore, your approach to navigating that change should be similar.

Ask yourself where your contributions are helping to fill gaps and further opportunities within the organization’s priorities in unique ways. What gaps are you filling that might not otherwise be filled, and in the way that you can fill them?

Going to hit the reset button? Protect yourself if you do. 

When navigating change, you may be in a position to revisit your role, or your duties and responsibilities given the shift in leadership’s priorities. When that happens, be open to all the changes, certainly, but don’t forget to get clarity on how the adjustments might impact other areas, such as goals, timelines, comp, and bonus eligibility.

Wherever possible, get confirmation that your goals (whether existing or new) are aligned to revised priorities. There’s nothing worse than moving forward “in good faith” only to realize at the end of the year that the goals you set last year aren’t really being recognized and therefore, your bonus is smaller than you anticipated, or bonuses are just being evened out among staff rather than lined up with individual performance.

Does that make you nervous? It’s OK, it makes lots of people uncomfortable. You don’t have to demand anything on the spot. You can simply ask open-ended questions, obtain answers, and think about implications before making any hard and fast decisions. If leadership doesn’t have answers, take the environment’s temperature with scenario planning and gather as much information as you can.

In all discussions, separate outcomes from process.

One key misstep that many midlevel managers make is answering an outcome or goal question with a process answer. In managing change, it’s not enough to describe what you’re doing. You must describe how the result of what you’re doing supports or aligns with collective goals.

When you speak as part of the group that is working toward new goals, you are more likely to establish yourself as part of that group in others’ minds. When you take a wait-and-see approach or speak of process, it can come across as administrative in nature.

Let me show you.

See the examples to illustrate below.

Option 1. “We have already developed a set protocols for content review. Let me show them to you, and I can explain them.”

Option 2. “Since you are prioritizing quality, I’d like to show you the three ways our current protocols reinforce and ensure quality. In addition, I have one other way to improve them that I’d like to get your reaction to.”

Option 1. “We have two teams working in parallel because their clients are at different stages of product development.”

Option 2. “Since we are prioritizing efficiency, we’ve worked with the other team to identify similar work flows among our client types. It seems there are new opportunities for cross-selling in a more efficient way. We haven’t figured out how yet, but it seems like we could work together to streamline. Would you like to hear about it?”

There are a million different iterations and options here, but anchor yourself in these two questions:

How do I talk about what I do and how I do it (process) in a way that will resonate with desired outcomes?


How can I convert the old day to day process into an opportunity for a new, relevant outcome that wasn’t there before?

You might also like:

A refreshing lens on proactive vs reactive

Where we stand: transparency in teams

The difference between risk and uncertainty

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1 thought on “Navigating change: how to be visible and protect yourself”

  1. Pingback: Career risk: get to the other side | Strategic Career Coaching

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