Soft Skills for Hard Times: Leading Change in Risk-Averse Environments 

By ImageSource Team on June 24, 2024

Fostering change acceptance in risk-averse environments requires a strategic balance of empathy, open communication, and strong leadership. Change management can be tackled project-by-project but is most successful in organizational cultures that prize innovation on an ongoing basis.  

Over thousands of collaborations, ImageSource’s project managers have developed a proven approach to helping organizations introduce new technology. Here’s their best advice on navigating the complexities of change management to cultivate an adaptable and forward-thinking workplace. 

A woman leads a strategy session for a team of 3 using post its on a window.

Understand Change-Drivers to Encourage Buy In 

“Before becoming project advocates, leaders must first understand the change, why it is necessary, and how it aligns with the organization’s goals,” says project manager Jocelyn Jensen. This level of comprehension enables project champions to communicate about the change effectively and empathetically.  

Resistance is almost inevitable. Leaders should be prepared to have open discussions and take an iterative approach to mitigate fears and remove barriers. This includes creating strategies that help employees adapt with more flexible attitudes. Leaders can foster a more supportive environment by understanding and elevating the root motivators for transformation. 

Invite Stakeholder Perspectives 

“Having stakeholders participate in the conversation helps them feel vested in the project,” says project manager Debbie Horton. She emphasizes that engaged stakeholders can help leaders identify challenges and requirements that may have been missed or help identify unanticipated benefits from a given project.  

Engaging with conflicting feedback strengthens the change process says ImageSource Project Manager Nichole Allison. She advises change leaders to look for areas where stakeholder priorities overlap. “Everyone has their own perspectives on the best approach to the desired outcome,” she says. “By engaging in conversations, you’ll discover commonalities in the individual viewpoints and changes needed.” 

Change leaders must also act on the feedback in ways that are visible to stakeholders. If a requested function is not adopted, leaders should address the reasons why to head off potential frustration. 

Communicate Early, Openly, and Often 

Transparent communication is crucial for successful change management. It’s essential to approach resistance and fear with empathy and a willingness to listen. Before they can support change, people throughout the organization want to understand how it will affect them positively and otherwise.  

While communication is critical heading into a technology project, change leaders must intentionally maintain a continuous dialogue. “By genuinely soliciting feedback regularly throughout a project, stakeholders feel heard and consequently take more ownership over ‘the change,’” says program manager Gene Eckhart

Select Tools that Deliver Iterative Wins 

Choosing the right project approach is fundamental to the success of change management. The specific tools and techniques vary according to the project, customer, and the nature of the change. The approach should be directly tied to communication strategies and can include practical aids like documentation, rewards for adaptive behaviors, and computer-based training programs for skill development. 

ImageSource recommends Agile project management for its strength in implementing change incrementally. This approach allows teams to experience benefits early and often. By breaking projects into smaller, manageable deliverables, stakeholders can witness progress firsthand, which helps maintain engagement and momentum. Each iteration provides an opportunity to gather feedback and make necessary adjustments, ensuring the project stays on course and aligns with the stakeholders’ needs and expectations. 

Pave the Way to a Change-Positive Culture 

Laying the groundwork for change acceptance is an ongoing initiative that should exist apart from any specific technology project. Set the tone by encouraging employees to be enterprising, share ideas, and brainstorm new ways of tackling challenges. Providing opportunities for professional development and continuous learning helps the entire organization develop a positive attitude toward transformation. 

“To create a culture supporting change and a growth mindset, we need to encourage and celebrate initiative-taking, experimentation, and innovation, regardless of the outcome,” says Bob Stellick. “By emphasizing that mistakes are growth opportunities, we can foster a culture where change is embraced.” 


Leading change in risk-averse environments demands knowledge, empathy, and visionary leadership. By understanding the impacts of change, communicating effectively, leading by example, implementing Agile practices, and fostering a culture of growth, leaders can navigate the complexities of change management successfully. These soft skills not only facilitate smoother transitions but also build a resilient and adaptable organization ready to thrive in any circumstances. 


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