Karin’s Leadership Articles

How to Get Your Team Fired Up About a Change

by | Sep 9, 2015 | By Karin Hurt, Employee Engagement & Energy |

The minute I walked into their building, I could feel the excitement reverberating from the walls. Everyone was buzzing about the unveiling of their new company name, branding, and messaging. The IT Guy explained that they were “no longer” a start-up (true), and the designer clearly articulated how these changes were to take the company into the next phase of their growth. Everyone I spoke to was fired up, and could articulate the reasons behind the changes in a remarkably extemporaneous and consistent way.

“How long have you known about this?,” I asked suddenly aware of how different this announcement felt from the ones I was a part of in my corporate roles. “Oh about a month,” was the consistent answer. “They trusted us to keep in under wraps until today.” “We don’t really have secrets around here.” I looked around. The only closeable doors were the conference rooms and the cleverly designed old-fashioned red phone booths employees could use in case they needed some privacy for a personal matter. “Plus WE WERE PART OF the design for the new look for the website and social media channels.”

I thought back to my early years on the receiving end of such transformation messages. As a lower level manager, I’d receive last-minute notice of a meeting and then would head to a conference room or a conference call to hear a carefully prepared speech about why we should be fired up and then handed a tee-shirt to seal the deal.

A few years later, when I was closer to the inner circle, I’d receive an invite to a conference call 30 minutes before the press release, where I would be handed a list of carefully crafted Q & As to cover with my team 30 minutes after the press got the news.

In my most recent executive role, I signed a stack of non-disclosures and was one of the few “in the know,” wordsmithing talking points and crafting As to the Qs most likely to be asked, triple checking to ensure the wording could be stomached by both legal and the employees.

Of course, you can’t manage a Fortune 50 company like a “no longer a start-up.” But, when the veil of secrecy becomes the norm, employees waste valuable energy bracing themselves for what’s next and guarding their enthusiasm.

Organic fire comes when change ignites with you, not on you.

If you want a team on fire about your change, trust them enough to help gather the kindling.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Alli Polin

    Your corporate experience with change sounds remarkably like mine. Even when I was hired to lead the change management charge, people resisted my new-fangled inclusive ideas and asked for… wait for it… talking points and conference cascading conference calls. Unfortunately, not every start up is as inclusive as the one you describe here when it comes to change. I wonder if it has something to do with the lineage of the founders… with a recent company I was with, they all came from large Fortune 100 company. Big changes were announced to the team with big wigs dropping names instead of listening to concerns. Follow up post-call was non-existent (after all, they had their obligatory conference call).

    The best way to get people fired up about change is to invite them in, not freeze them out.

    Thanks for sharing this one. Near and dear to my heart!

    ~ Alli

  2. Terri Klass

    I too have had similar corporate experiences about change Karin. Keeping people in the dark until the last minute is never a good idea for change in any organization. When I partner with firms on change we address the human emotions connected with change. Just as you described your feelings of surprise and disbelief, when participants in my workshops talk about change they mention the same feelings. In the end, the more information the better. When their is a lack of communication on a change, rumors fly and people jump to conclusions.

    Thanks Karin!

  3. Paula Kiger

    So, so true, Karin! I had a boss one time decide on a Friday around 3:45 that we would do a reorg, including MOVING people’s work stations, by the next Monday morning. To say it created distrust and questions is an understatement! 🙂

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