By Corporate English Solutions

09 April 2024 - 08:48

EQ and change management-essential skills for L and D leaders

Workplace transformation and change often demand behaviours that challenge preferences and beliefs, push us beyond our comfort zones and stir strong feelings. The range of responses to transformation can make change management a daunting task even for experienced leaders.

A crucial aspect of change management lies in using Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skills to foster a positive mindset, shifting from a culture of fear and impossibility to one of discovery and opportunity, ultimately enhancing resilience and well-being in your teams. 

Discover the British Council’s MINDSET approach and explore seven practical EQ strategies you can use to support your teams and develop a positive mindset during times of change and beyond.


 Reading time: 6 minutes.

Just when transformation calls for us and our teams to change, we don’t. 


Change in our workplace often demands behaviours that challenge preferences and beliefs, pushes us beyond our comfort zones and stirs strong feelings. We can experience feelings similar to those felt during grief, including denial and anger to bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance. This can trigger a range of responses, from a sense of paralysis to fight or flight reactions, making change management a daunting task even for experienced leaders.

So, how can leaders effectively support their teams through change? 

A crucial aspect of change management lies in fostering a positive mindset, shifting from a culture of fear and impossibility to one of discovery and opportunity, ultimately enhancing resilience and well-being in your teams. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skills such as self-awareness, understanding others, showing empathy and navigating emotions, are vital for you cultivate this mindset in yourself and team members and lead your team effectively through the challenges of change. 

Read on as we introduce the British Council’s MINDSET approach and explore seven practical EQ strategies you can use to support your teams and develop a positive mindset during times of change and beyond.

1. Increase your understanding of your team’s emotions, behaviour and needs during change

Awareness and understanding are the foundations of developing a positive mindset, enabling leaders to decipher the emotional undercurrents within their teams and respond with empathy and insight. Use the four key MIND strategies of the MINDSET approach to increase your understanding of your team members during change:

M – Communicate mindfully

I - Investigate the reasons and motivations behind behaviour, emotions and thoughts

N - Understand your team’s needs and wants

D – Draw on who they are

Encourage open and honest communication within your team. Establishing a safe space where team members feel free to express their thoughts, concerns, and emotions fosters a culture of transparency and trust. Regular team meetings, one-on-one discussions, and anonymous feedback mechanisms are invaluable for facilitating communication and ensuring that everyone's voice is heard.

However, it's important to acknowledge that not everyone may feel comfortable speaking up about the transformation. As a leader, it's crucial to be attuned to your team members' behaviour, interactions, and work environment during these challenging times. Keep a watchful eye out for signs of stress, resistance, or enthusiasm, as they can offer valuable insights into their emotional responses. Actively listen and observe non-verbal cues, such as changes in behaviour, body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions, to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and wants.

Do you notice any of the common behaviours and emotions mentioned above?

Understanding what motivates your team is crucial during times of transformation. While extrinsic motivation, like tangible rewards or consequences, may have an immediate impact, it's intrinsic motivation—a sense of purpose and alignment with personal values—that truly drives individuals to embrace change with fulfilment. By exploring the needs and wants of your team, you can establish a deeper connection between the change and their intrinsic motivation, enabling you to tailor your change management and communication strategies to each individual. 

To foster a culture of resilience and adaptability during change, adopt a coaching leadership style and support your team members to develop an acceptance mindset. Encourage them to reflect on questions such as: 

  • What aspects of the change can you control or contribute to? 
  • How can you fulfil your needs effectively? 
  • What potential opportunities and benefits might this change bring for you? 

By using the four ‘MIND’ EQ strategies, you can support your team as they move through the different stages of emotions, increasing their self-awareness and growing self-confidence, laying strong foundations to navigate change with resilience. 

But how can you support your team to move from understanding to action? 

2. Support team members to switch to an optimistic outlook

An optimistic outlook is a powerful catalyst in change management, nurturing resilience and adaptability by reframing challenges as opportunities for growth. ‘Switching’ in the MINDSET approach is about supporting your teams to shift towards optimism, empowering them to approach obstacles with positivity and determination

Encourage your team members to draw on past successes, identifying specific achievements and exploring the factors that contributed to success. Prompt them to use these insights and gain inspiration by considering which past actions could help see them through the current change, empowering them to tackle potential challenges with confidence and resilience. 

Foster a spirit of innovation by exploring new approaches. Prompt them by asking ‘What is at least one new approach you'd like to try this time?’ Encourage continuous learning by supporting them to identify how they can learn additional strategies and tools and where they can find resources. Foster collaboration and leverage the strengths of different team members by organising knowledge-sharing sessions. 

These inquiries nurture a growth mindset, bolstering confidence and motivation, empowering individuals to address challenges with curiosity and adaptability, gradually fostering a positive outlook during transformation. 

3. Empathise with your team members

Empathy is a crucial aspect of the MINDSET approach. This ability to acknowledge, feel, and relate to others’ contexts, thoughts, emotions, and behaviour can foster greater understanding, trust, and interpersonal connection with teams, enhancing well-being and relationships and growing resilience in times of change. 

Your capacity to demonstrate empathy to your team depends on your motivation and ability to overcome personal barriers. It's essential to develop strategies to navigate your emotions and avoid internalising others' emotions too intensely, as this could lead to exhaustion, apathy, or anger. Stay mindful of whether you're overly self or task-focused, too busy, or distracted to shift your focus to others when needed. Question your judgment and bias by refraining from jumping to conclusions. Instead, take a moment to wonder about what might be going on for your team, listen mindfully and make an effort to remember their needs and wants.

Use the following strategies to show empathy: 

  • Acknowledge and show interest in your team's thoughts and emotions: Use phrases like ‘you seem upset’, ‘what I hear you saying is…’ and ‘when you say X, do you mean…?’  Remember, acknowledging doesn't imply agreement.
  • Focus on the emotion rather than the situation: Recall a time when you felt the same emotion to understand without passing judgment on the situation.
  • Contribute to your team's psychological safety by sharing aspects of yourself: Discuss your own experiences of the transformation, including both opportunities and challenges.

4. Team up with others 

Finally, let's not underestimate the power of connection and collaboration. An emotionally intelligent leader employs the last MINDSET strategy, teaming up, to seek out opportunities to collaborate with others who can assist their team in navigating through change, offering resources and contacts for support. Identify how your team can support each other and broader teams by engaging in communities of practice or interest groups.


So if your organisation is embarking on or in the process of a change programme, remember your MINDSET:

  • Mindful communication
  • Investigate reasons
  • Needs and wants
  • Draw on who they are 
  • Switch to optimism
  • Empathy
  • Team up 

These emotionally intelligent strategies will help you develop a learning mindset in your team, nurture resilience and effectively manage change, seeing it, not as a threat, but as an opportunity to grow.


British Council has over 80 years’ experience of partnering with organisations and individuals in over 200 countries to upskill their workforce in key skills for success. Our four-step process supports you to implement initiatives that make a difference.

Our Professional Skills and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) programmes develop your and your teams’ EQ  to develop a positive mindset, nurture resilience and navigate change effectively.  

Contact us to find out more.