One of the most challenging times to lead others comes during a tough phase of transition or change. Uncertainty creates an atmosphere of fear, low morale, and brings out the worst in people.

On the other hand, leaders who successfully address organizational change--immediately and tactfully--can minimize its negative effects on the workforce.

Here's what to do when faced with change:

1. Inform your employees. Tell them as much as you can, as soon as you can. Give them the pros and cons. The key is not to hold back and deliver surprises later. They need to know ASAP.

2. Reassure your employees. Give them the facts and how they fit into the picture, but provide encouragement and keep the positive vibes flowing. Ask for their input. How do they feel about this change?

3. Deliver bad news diplomatically and tactfully. Choose your timing and approach well. Focus on communicating progress and keeping them updated throughout the change process.

4. Define expected results and continuing standards for performance during the change. They still need to have goals and expectations set or redefined. If there's more change on the horizon, let them know early to get them ready.

5. Change is hard, so provide plenty of praise and recognition so they feel valued during a tough transition.

In the event the worst-case scenario becomes reality.

Not all change will be smooth sailing ahead. Sometimes, as they say, the "fit will hit the shan." When crisis strikes and you're faced with making those hard decisions that impact the business, remember to live by these rules:

  • Take quick decisive action. Don't sit on your decision.
  • Be honest and act with integrity.
  • Don't try to win over or make peace with your people. This is not the time. Offer sound solutions or clearly-defined next steps.
  • Do what you can with the people you have.
  • This is a bad time to panic or let your emotions run wild. Show compassion for the situation and people involved, stay composed, calm and centered. This will carry over to your team.

How did you or your company successfully manage change? Share in the comments or on Twitter and let me know about it.