CNLP 325: Susan Steinbrecher on How to Lead Change, Deal with Conflict at Work and Increase Team Engagement

Leadership isn’t getting any easier. Leadership consultant, Susan Steinbrecher, whose insights have been featured in the New York Times, Inc., and Fast Company among others, shares the keys to leading change at work, how to get team buy-in and how to increase employee engagement.

In addition, in an environment where people spend 25-40% of their workweek dealing with disputes, disagreements and unresolved conflict, Susan shares how to better handle conflict at work.

Welcome to Episode 325 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Guest Links

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Website

Episode Links

Leaders in Living Rooms

I want to introduce you to a great, new podcast that I’ve added to my repertoire.

It’s from my good friend and leader, Sean Morgan, and it’s called Leaders in Living Rooms. On Leaders in Living Rooms, Sean has backstage conversations, living room style conversations, with leaders like Jud Wilhite, Brady Boyd, Aaron Brockett, David Kinnaman, Kenton Beshore and myself. Sean is a hyper connected leader, and spends a lot of time with founders like me and with their successors to discuss a major issue in church and business, leadership transitions.

Check out Leaders in Living Rooms wherever you get your podcasts, or go to


Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Meaningful Alignment – take the assessment

3 Insights from Susan

1. We have to engage with people’s emotions when leading people into change

When bringing about change, so many leaders do a great job of explaining the logical business case for why they are doing something, but never even think about the emotional part of change. When you change things, jobs can get cut, work teams get separated, and morale can take a huge hit.

So what can you do? Pay attention to the emotional effects change will have on the team. Sit down and listen to them. Hear why the changes will be hard and ask if there is anything you can do to help make the change a bit easier on them. If you show you hear them and care about them, that can go a long way.

2. 25-40% of a leader’s time at work is spent managing conflict

Conflict can be a massive distraction in the workplace. If you have one key relationship on the team falter, you could be losing hours of productivity because those two individuals are trying to avoid each other at all costs. This is a nightmare for your mission.

As the leader, you will have to intervene and help mediate from time to time. When you do this, it will take a lot of emotional intelligence, listening, and pointing the employees to a better future. If you never address conflict, it will only grow and become a bigger problem.

3. 4 steps to not make a triggered response

We all have triggers from our past that when someone hits you will begin to say some things that you will later regret. So how do you avoid saying something dumb or hurtful when you are triggered?

Susan outlines 4 key steps:

  1. Pause: Hit the pause button and stay quiet. You need extra time to consider your words.
  2. Deflect: Ask a question like “Can you share more about that? I really want to understand.”
  3. Breathe: When you are triggered, you need to focus on your breathing. Ask a question or take physical notes to buy yourself time to breathe.
  4. Delay: If you are 100% sure the conversation is going nowhere, delay it for another time.

Quotes from Episode 325

People emotionally go through all kinds of trauma often when change occurs, because we fear the unknown. @SteinbrecherInc Click To Tweet

95% of the conflict in the church has nothing to do with the church. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet

They are going to bring whatever's going home to work. @SteinbrecherInc Click To Tweet

People don't jump out of bed with the intention to disappoint. @SteinbrecherInc Click To Tweet

Most of us want to create some kind of meaning in people's lives or want to make a difference. @SteinbrecherInc Click To Tweet

Even if you really like your boss, you're not going to disagree with him. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet

The good and bad and the ugly of life creates belief systems and value systems. @SteinbrecherInc Click To Tweet

We have a tendency to blame everybody else for what's going on, and the truth is if you are really emotionally charged about something, I promise you it's your stuff not somebody else's. @SteinbrecherInc Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 325

Looking for a key quote? More of a reader?

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.

Watch Back Episodes of The Podcast on YouTube

Select episodes of this podcast are now on YouTube. Our new YouTube Channel gives you a chance to watch some episodes, not just listen. We’ll add select episodes to YouTube as time goes on.

Introducing The Leader’s Circle: Curated, top-tier leadership development and community for you.

If you’re struggling with time famine, I’ve got a brand new community that can help you.

Introducing The Leader’s Circle—done for your leadership development (to save you time) and access to a community of high capacity leaders and my personal insight.

Ask yourself:

What would it feel like to have your staff meeting prep done for you every month?

What if you had access to Carey Nieuwhof and a community of high-level leaders?

What if you and your team could master a new leadership topic in less than an hour every month?

The Leader’s Circle gives you monthly staff meetings done-for-you with highly relevant, practical topics and a Team Application Guide so the training isn’t just talk, but action that leads to results.

Plus, I’ll work with you.

Inside The Leader’s Circle, you get access to a private forum where I’ll connect with you and the other high-capacity leaders who are trying to solve the same challenges you are.

Here’s what you’ll get inside The Leader’s Circle:

→ A new 15-20 minute leader training in video, audio, and written form each month
→ A 25-30 minute background teaching that gives deeper context to the training in video, audio, and written form
→ A printable Team Application Guide, customizable slide deck, and meeting agenda
→ Monthly hour-long live video Q and A’s with Carey Nieuwhof
→ Access to a community of high-capacity leaders through our private site and forum, led by Carey Nieuwhof

Best part? It’s not overwhelming. There are no 2-hour videos or 180-page books to get through every month.

You can keep trying to do it all yourself, which leaves you with a stack of half-read books and partially-digested podcasts you know you need to master in order to train your team.

Or you can cross staff-meeting preparation off your list, and dive into a new community of high-capacity leaders and me.

The Leader’s Circle is designed to help you stop leading alone and start leading together.

Registration for The Leader’s Circle is only open for a very limited time.

Check out The Leader’s Circle today.

Subscribed Yet? 

Subscribe for free and never miss out on wisdom from world-class leaders like Brian Houston, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Nancy Duarte, Henry Cloud, Patrick Lencioni, Francis Chan, Ann Voskamp, Erwin McManus and many others.

Subscribe using your favorite podcast app via

Apple Podcasts


Google Play



Spread the Word. Leave a Rating and Review

Hopefully, this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast on Apple Podcasts and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn as well.

Your ratings and reviews help us place the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Adam Duckworth

In 2012, Adam Duckworth was a part-time travel agent who decided to strike out in his own. Within a few years, Travelmation, his new company, absorbed the company he used to work for. Today, Travelmation is one of the largest and fastest growing travel agencies in America. Along the way, he ended up disrupting the travel industry. Adam shares what’s different about his model, how he’s created a highly engaged team of 400 travel agents in a virtual company, and how he motivates his team to high performance.

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 326.

CNLP 325: Susan Steinbrecher on How to Lead Change, Deal with Conflict at Work and Increase Team Engagement


  1. Stewart Perry on March 11, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    I, for one, thought this was fantastic. I do have a question though – A lot of times when I hear successful leaders talk about soft skills, it’s something they’ve come to after a period of burnout or having noticed they burned a lot of people out. Carey ‘s story is a great example. However, many of them built their initial success with that hard-charging goal-oriented, mid-night oil burning focus that later led to the need to develop the soft skills. Sometimes I get the impression that my church (for example) would grow a lot more quickly if I was much more directive instead of trying to bring as many people along as possible. What do you think?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 11, 2020 at 8:51 pm

      Hey Stewart,

      Soft skills and being extremely driven don’t necessarily have to be separate.

      You can be hard-charging and motivated while still being a kind compassionate boss. I always say “attack the problem not the person.”

  2. Jeff on March 10, 2020 at 3:01 pm

    I have enjoyed many of your podcasts and gleaned much wisdom from the various presenters that you have had throughout the years. Every now and again technical ‘bugs’ in the program will throw me for a loop. However, I felt something needed to be said about the Meaningful Alignment page/link that you have provided. There are many technical issues with that site and the assessment/email signup does not work. They take the data, but they do not provide the link to the assessment, which also worries me as they do not provide a means by which to unsubscribe/clear one’s email afterwards. If you have a direct connection with them especially as you are linking/recommending their site, I would ask that you please have them look into/fix their site, it unfortunately detracts from the otherwise high level of content that you usually provide.

  3. Mark on March 4, 2020 at 2:36 pm

    I respectfully differ having seen too many leaders not do any job of explaining the logical business case for why they are doing something. Most people were informed (in very few words) that a change had been made and that was all that was said.

    As for conflict, there are horizontal and vertical conflicts. Yes, horizontal ones can cause loss of productivity, but vertical ones can be/are much worse since the underlings tend to get quiet and not tell the leadership anything at all. However, this is not helped when the leader lies to their superiors that all is fine. Sometimes it would be advisable for the higher leadership to go to the bottom rank and ask those people what is really going on. However, those leaders should be prepared for cryptic responses and pleas to not be quoted.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.