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Working as a Team: Tips for Successfully Managing Change

[This post originally appeared on as part of Foundant’s 365 Sponsorship

So, your gut is telling you there needs to be a change in the way you manage grants… or track volunteer hours, or manage events, or your accounting practices, etc. You might know you need change. You might feel it every day. But this isn’t the same as understanding exactly what you’re hoping to accomplish.

Don’t assume that you or the people you’re working with can’t take the steps necessary for a needed change. Do set yourself up for successful change management by taking a few simple, but necessary steps early on.

Create a Clear Picture of Your Goals

What needs to change? Do you simply need to set a more efficient process in place for staff to follow? Or do you need to evaluate technology options to help you become more efficient and better organized?

Why is this necessary? It’s not enough to simply see a problem and then try to fix it. You need to define the issue and explain (if only to yourself) why this change needs to happen. Fill in the blanks: 

We are experiencing problems with __________, because of __________. Therefore, we need to consider __________. 

It seems simple enough, but people often skip this step because they “just know” change is necessary. But communicating your “gut feeling” to others takes more than intuition.

Who will this affect? The most difficult part of change management is communicating what is happening to stakeholders. The people who will be affected by your initiative will be more accepting of change if they understand the what and why ahead of time. This is especially important when working with different roles and personality types.

Understand the People Who Work with You

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
~7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, Habit #5

Even a staff of one works with different people on a daily basis—volunteers, board of directors, grantees, and the public. While it’s not necessary to be an expert on what makes everyone tick, having a general understanding of different learning styles and motivators is helpful.

Some people learn better with pictures, others with text. Some people need a more direct “telling” approach, and others require showing. This applies not only to learning “something,” such as a new job or software solution, but also when learning to accept change. Some folks will hear, “this is what we’re doing, get on board,” and they’ll accept it and move on. Others will need more convincing.

Remember that there is nothing right or wrong with the way different people react in the face of change… it’s just who they are. It might be easy to champion those who embrace change from the word go and avoid or become aggravated with those who continue to question your decisions. But keep in mind that often the people who resist the most in the beginning might end up being your biggest supporters once the change is proven effective.

Case in point. Like many organization’s, Foundant set its sights on integrating back into the office. While this was exciting news for some, understandably others were still weary. To work with the varying stances of Foundant’s employees, a cautious stage of re-entry was introduced. During meetings both with individual teams and the entire company, policy updates were shared and offers for those who wish to return to the office were cast. The most effective part of this was the communication of an employees' right to choose and impact future changes. Foundant’s workers knew that crossing the “finish line” of this pandemic meant doing it together.

I bring this example up because, even if you work with a very small staff and think you know exactly what they are thinking, it is critical that they know you have their best interests at heart. Taking time to speak with the people affected will give them a sense of belonging and investment in your plan, as well as give you a clear picture of their concerns and motivations.

Plan for Change

Once you know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish and understand how the people you work with will be part of this change, it’s time to plan.

Does your staff need training? A sure-fire way to create resistance is to tell someone what they have to do. Instead, involve them in the process. Sit down with your stakeholders and explain what they’ll be expected to do with this new process or system. Give them the opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions. This shouldn’t just be a “show and tell,” but an open forum for the group to air concerns and bounce ideas off one another. You will probably find that there are some points (however minor) that you hadn’t considered when planning on your own.

Will this mean moving from one set of systems or processes to something entirely different? The more movement and change your plan entails, the more unknowns you’ll need to account for. These unknowns won’t just affect the people involved, but the timeline to implement as well. Make sure you’re not up against a tight deadline or strong opposition when you take on a major change project.

What other people need to be involved? If you’re working with any outside contractors you’ll need to accommodate schedules and processes that are not under your control. Even people you’re paying for outside work have other things going on. Don’t assume you’re their only client. That being said, you have every right to expect great customer service from these contractors as well. Make sure you’re getting what you’ve been promised.

Moving Forward with Purpose

Once you have a clear goal, understand the stakeholders involved, and have outlined your plan—it’s time to move forward with purpose. This means being prepared for any last minute opposition, being confident in your vision, and keeping sight of what this will look like for you and your organization at the end.

You’ll want to be flexible to any changes that happen along the way, but not allow too many adjustments to push you into being “wishy-washy.” In the tech world, we refer to this as “scope creep.” Anything that does not align with your original vision “creeps” outside of the scope of your goals.

Change is hard, but can also be exciting, inspiring, and reinvigorating for everyone involved… especially with the right gear! As long as goals are clearly set and the lines of communication are open, you’ll find stronger success in future shifts.

Without change, there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.

~William Pollard

About the Author

Kristin's passion is sharing knowledge and stories with the philanthropic community so they can make a difference. As Foundant Technologies' Content Marketing Manager, she enjoys collaborating with her highly creative and talented team to continually deliver better, more engaging materials and sector education. Over the last several years, Kristin has found an additional passion for mentoring students through Foundant's evolving internship program. Guiding students as they find their strengths and passions offers what she craves most - continued learning, growth, and connection. As an avid reader and writer, Kristin is fascinated with the written word and all forms of communication. In her spare time, she loves to read, write, paint, swim, cook, and spend time with her comedic husband and children. Volunteering throughout the community and finding ways to get involved with fundraisers that make a difference is important to her. Kristin has enjoyed speaking at local nonprofit fundraising events including Thrive's annual Lily Ball in 2018 and various fundraising and awareness events for HAVEN - Bozeman, MT's shelter for victims of domestic violence - through their End the Silence Speaker's Bureau - a group dedicated to educating the community through personal narrative. Kristin was awarded one of Gallatin Valley's 2018 20 Under 40 awards for her commitment to career and community. More recently, she has joined the Board of Directors for two small nonprofits: We Are HER - dedicated to helping survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault become HER: healed, empowered, and restored through an online community and robust programming aimed at connection; and Pride House 406 - focused on providing a safe after-school space for LGBTQIA+ youth in the Gallatin Valley. Drop her a line at if you have an idea for some inspiring content and if you'd like to connect over a shared love of stories.

Profile Photo of Kristin Laird