Leading Through Change

Ketchum is going through one of the biggest changes in its 95-year history. We’ve shifted to a communications consultancy model, leaning into our industry expertise and operating with a no boundaries framework to best serve our clients. We are thrilled to have a new vision and new values that support our strategy of transforming us into a more modern, agile organization.

As organizational psychologists, we know that change at a corporation needs to be supported by leaders at all levels in order for it to become a reality. Even the most exciting changes, such as our own transition, can be challenging. At Ketchum, we are fortunate to have the best leaders in the business engaging our teams and helping to chart our new course.

Helping to architect and implement this transformation, we have seen first-hand some important and helpful behaviors that effective leaders use to guide their teams through change. Whether you are responsible for a small team or an entire organization, consider these tips to help make the organizational shift easier for your team members and for yourself.

  1. Consider where you are on the change curve. Ideally, you’re one of the lucky ones who readily endorse the changes underway. However, at times leaders are called upon to make change happen while they themselves are still processing the information or acclimating in real time. Be honest with yourself about where you are on the change curve, and plan for ways you might authentically lead during this time. It’s important to project a sense of steadiness for your people, so take care to manage the outward demonstration of your own emotions. The need for proactive energy management practices and self-care are amplified during these times, and should be considered essential components of your leadership practice.
  2. Respect the change journey. We all progress through change in our own way. Many team members will be excited and able to quickly see the opportunity that a change affords them. Help maintain the energy of those people and enlist them as ambassadors of change. Ask them to lend their voice and advocate actively for the change. Other team members may be more hesitant and may feel like they are leaving something behind. They may need more support and listening time to process the transition. Both responses are normal and should be treated that way.
  3. Maintain an action-oriented mindset. Think about who the change ambassadors are on your team. Help operationalize the positive changes that they are looking forward to, and find ways to promote their early wins as a method to light the way for others. For those who are more hesitant about the change, think about what you can do to create a personalized approach to engage and retain them. Do these team members require more conversations? Do they require more data? Do they need to be more involved to commit to the change? Determine what each of your colleagues needs and act on it.
  4. Strive for personal and high-touch moments. During times of transition, it is even more important to create a regular cadence of team check-ins (both with individuals and groups). Protect team member meeting times and try your best not to shift or cancel these meetings. When not in the same physical location, opt to use video chat rather than a phone call. If you notice a temptation to delay a meeting or avoid contact with a particular person, use that as an interesting data point and explore what the underlying resistance might be for you. For example, if you have concerns about their reactions or challenging questions they may ask, seek counsel from your HR business partner, but resist the urge to avoid the conflict.
  5. Give your own workload management practices a tune-up. If only periods of change came with reduced workloads! Oftentimes, leaders with already full plates are called upon to do even more. Don’t assume you can simply fit it all in without an evaluation with fresh eyes. What can be delegated? What can be delayed? What may no longer be a priority and can be eliminated? Where might there be opportunities for others to step up and help you in new ways that could stretch their own capabilities? If you use an assistant, how can that role be utilized in new or better ways? What changes can you make to stay on top of the new workload and still remain accessible to your team?

In the constantly changing marketing communications landscape, leading through change is a skill that everyone should continue to develop and hone. While you and your team may feel understandably anxious at times, explore ways you might frame change as an exciting growth and learning opportunity for all who are involved. Do you have any tips for leading through change and inspiring your team during transitions? Connect with us via Twitter (Amanda Kowal Kenyon or Melissa Barry) and let us know!

Amanda is a 23-year veteran at Ketchum. In her current role as the leader of organizational effectiveness and learning and development, Amanda provides strategic direction and consultation on strategy implementation, team development and dynamics, organizational effectiveness, leadership team alignment, and personal productivity for the agency and its employees. She also serves as a certified executive coach and lead trainer for Ketchum University. Prior to her role at Ketchum, Amanda was a Director at Stromberg Consulting where she was an external management consultant for 13 years. She holds her Master’s in Organizational Psychology and Executive Coaching certification from Columbia University. Amanda received her bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Michigan Honors College. She lives in New York with her husband and daughter. She’s an accomplished home cook, avid reader and novice Netflix-binger.


Melissa Barry is the Chief of Staff at Ketchum. As Chief of Staff, Melissa directly supports Ketchum’s CEO, Barri Rafferty, and her senior team by providing counsel on agency transformation, strategy execution, and operational excellence. Prior to this role, Melissa was part of the Organizational Effectiveness team where she spent her time consulting to groups and individuals in the areas of change management, employee engagement, and team effectiveness. Melissa received her graduate degree in Social-Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and her undergraduate degree in Human Development from Cornell University. She is a certified HCI Human Capital Strategist and is qualified to administer several assessments including MBTI and Social Styles.