Your organization is bracing for another big change. An acquisition, perhaps. Or a restructuring. Or a major initiative to improve a business process.

Even if the change is mostly positive, employees are not going to be happy. They've been down this road before, and they know that change brings disruption, anxiety and just plain inconvenience.

Employees also know that if their leader isn't truly committed, the change may not happen as planned (or occur at all). So your team members are watching to see if you're serious. After all, employees view leaders as role models: Your actions and words communicate what's important. So even subtle things you do will impact employees' perceptions and decisions.

To fulfill your change role, you need a game plan for engaging employees. Here are the five steps you need to take:

1. Set objectives. Start by articulating the change management outcomes your organization needs to achieve. For example, you may need employees to:

  • Understand why change needs to occur and how it will happen
  • Believe that the initiative is important to the organization
  • Be prepared to take action

2. Develop a deep understanding of the change. Yes, change is a moving target, so it's difficult to know everything--especially at the beginning when plans are still in progress. But you can't be an effective change leader unless you can answer employees' questions to provide as much information as possible. Prepare yourself by building your knowledge about the change. Then figure out your key messages--the story you'll tell.

3. Build communication into your regular schedule. To get employees on board and keep them focused, you need to communicate early and often. Make communication part of every day in formal and informal settings; for example:

  • In staff meetings, set aside time (15 minutes) to answer your team's questions
  • When a group or individual reaches a key milestone to support change, recognize the achievement through a quick email, phone call or chat in the hallway
  • Create "office hours" where team members can stop by and ask questions

4. Create opportunities for interaction. If you're asking employees to change the way they work, they need more than a presentation--they need contact. Remember that adults learn most effectively by asking questions and through dialogue. So focus on creating opportunities for interaction with team members; for example:

  • Allow time for Q and A
  • Pose a question: "What is a challenge we face in getting this done?"
  • Create opportunities to solve a problem or create a plan together

5. Use feedback to make improvements. To ensure you're connecting with team members and achieving your objectives, you need to gather feedback. You usually don't need formal research. Just check for understanding by asking such questions as:

  • Did I explain this issue clearly?
  • What other information do you need?
  • What else do you need to set you up for success?

While this approach requires time and commitment, it helps employees get over the hurdles that prevent them from supporting change.