Stay in business long enough, and change becomes part of the entrepreneurial landscape. Those who lead well through change have the best chance for success.

Joy Donnell is a prime example of one who has learned well how to lead through change. The media entrepreneur, speaker, and author co-founded Vanichi magazine.

She also is a brand strategist and activist dedicated to “creating media that increases humanity.”

“I believe in owning your power,” Donnell said. “Power is owning your voice, image, influence , and intentions.”

To that end, her work combines branding, publicity, content strategy and media to build la egacy and expand awareness.

“Change is constant and requires steady monitoring,” Donnell said. “You don’t just want to respond to change. You want to anticipate it where you can. That requires listening.

“Listen. Always,” she said. “It’s the best way to find out the needs of the people who work with you, the audience you target, the communities you want to service.”

This goes beyond in-person conversations.

“With our technology, listening has a wider meaning,” Donnell said. “We can take online polls, questionnaires and such in the digital space and use tools like Google analytics. In real life, we can also create events and panels to provide information and gain insight.

Accept change as the only thing in life that stays the same,” she said. “It will help you find sanity within it and do what’s necessary to navigate it.”

Changing times put added weight on leaders to be flexible with how they engage employees.

“I appreciate leaders who cultivate calm during change,” Donnell said. “The team has a better chance of thinking through everything. That requires deep but clear communication.”


She favors these ways for leaders to stay engaged:

  • Update the climate and situation without bombarding and overloading people’s senses.
  • Check in with the team’s stress level.
  • Take breaks and provide breaks for the team.
  • Be clear with your directives.

“Messiness is contagious in business,” Donnell said. “If you’re messy with your team, they can easily get off track. There’s a difference between being transparent and unloading your mess and internal process on others.

“We want to guide the team to new horizons through change because even the smoothest transitions are stressful,” she said. “That happens by providing them information and bringing them into the process so they can hold space, but protect their energy as best you can.”

Times of continuous change in organizations pose challenges for businesses to maintain high-performance cultures.

“As a leader, regardless of how chaotic things are, you help your team tap into their element and grow,” Donnell said.

“I’d never ask team members highly skilled at design to do accounting,” she said. “If they hate accounting, that diversion can kill their creative fire resulting in less inspired design. But some leaders do this to talent, then wonder why morale is suffering.”

Great leaders know they cannot do it all by themselves.

“Leadership doesn’t make you superhuman,” Donnell said. “You must create support for yourself so you can support your team.

“Don’t be afraid to get coaches, mentors and take classes,” she said. “This helps you keep growing and managing change so you can foster healthy environments.”

One of the foundations of leadership is knowing how to place trust in others.

“Ultimately, do what you do best,” Donnell said. “Delegate the rest. But delegate properly. Let talent own its space. Don’t take it out of its element. Hire extra help when it’s needed. Celebrate people’s wins with praise and money and bonuses.

“Also be open to feedback,” she said. “That gives you a competitive edge. Few people tap it as a resource.”

Donnell suggests simple tactics for entrepreneurs leading through change:

  • Stay Calm. Everything will not be perfect. Get over it. 
  • Communicate Clearly. Don’t expect folks to magically know what you need. 
  • Get Help. You need it. 
  • Be Clear About Your Goals.

“Change can cause us to be anxious about the present and future,” Donnell said. “I prefer to not build on a foundation of anxiety.

“Getting crystal clear about goals and then steadily building toward them helps me stay focused,” she said. “Then I can appreciate process.”

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Jim Katzaman
Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services. A writer by trade, he graduated from Lebanon Valley College, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He enlisted in the Air Force and served for 25 years in public affairs – better known in the civilian world as public relations. He also earned an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science in Public Affairs. Since retiring, he has been a consultant and in the federal General Service as a public affairs specialist. He also acquired life and health insurance licenses, which resulted in his present affiliation with Largo Financial Services. In addition to expertise in financial affairs, he gathers the majority of his story content from Twitter chats. This has led him to publish about a wide range of topics such as social media, marketing, sexual harassment, workplace trends, productivity and financial management. Medium has named him a top writer in social media.


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