How to keep your head in business when change threatens to overwhelm you

As business owners and leaders we need to ensure we continue to make effective, informed decisions even if we feel overwhelmed or threatened by change.

Jean Gamester of Semaphora is currently helping two organisations that are going through change; a local authority dealing with austerity by becoming commercial and Toastmasters International which is dealing with an expansion of speaker clubs and members – with some growing pains.

In both organisations, people are trying to get their heads around what the changes planned mean to them.

So what does Jean recommend and how can business owners and leaders keep their head in the face of change.

Her advice is to connect with purpose, values and objectivity.  Here’s how:


What is key for any change is that it is consistent with the purpose of the organisation.  For example, for the local authority, their ultimate purpose is the wellbeing of the people and businesses they serve.

For anyone facing proposals for change, they need to make a judgement about whether the amount proposed is “just right” and whether it will serve the purpose now and in the future.  It’s important to constantly evaluate whether that balance is right, not just at the beginning but throughout the process.


People who are normally positive, encouraging and supportive can temporarily transform at times of change to negative, aggressive and angry. To avoid this stay connected with your values.  A strong change programme will not just focus on the details of processes and systems.  It will also clarify and explore how the values of the organisation and the people relate to the change. Individuals facing change can use their own values to act as their guide on how to react and approach the change.


As soon as someone makes a proposal to make something change it is our natural instinct to evaluate it.  We generally do this by considering how it effects our status quo and listening to the loudest voices around us.  However, if we truly want to make an objective evaluation we need more information than that.

Change is disruptive, uncertain and we can’t be sure it’s going to deliver the results that are hoped for.   We have to be open to the possibility that not all steps of the journey need to be mapped out yet for it to be a good destination, and that we might not enjoy all the steps.  Most importantly consider how much more likely those results are going to be achieved if we ourselves get on board.

We also have to be careful about the strong voices.  It’s easy to come up with reasons why something that doesn’t exist yet will never succeed.  They could, of course, be right – we can’t eliminate that possibility. So it’s up to us to keep our heads about us, to actively evaluate those criticisms and theories for ourselves, and make our own judgement.

To support all of this, change leaders need to make sure as much information is shared and that concerned voices are listened to and responded to respectfully. That way those who are hearing the message have a chance of being objective about it.

Ultimately, by considering purpose, values and objectivity – it is possible to keep your head in business when change is all about you.