Empathy and Change Management with Samantha Barr

Updated: Jan 18


Episode 28 - The Empathy Podcast

Empathy and Change Management with Samantha Barr.

Listen on Podomatic or on your favourite podcast platform (Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Google)

or watch the episode here on YouTube.

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For people to embrace an ever-evolving world, it is essential to make the right changes at the right time. A good change manager is invaluable for ensuring these changes are implemented effectively and efficiently. However, managing change without empathy will affect the organisation and its people financially, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Today, our guest is Samantha Barr of Maven Change who will help us understand change management through the lens of empathy.

Samantha is the founder and Managing Director of Maven Change. Maven Change is a specialist change and transformation company that equips people and organisations with the Mindset, Skillset and Toolset required to bring innovation to life and to implement change and transformation maximising acceptance and adoption. Samantha is also a change & agility coach, mentor, speaker, facilitator, advisor, and certified agnostic.

We explore Samantha’s meaning of change management, the human-centred design of change management, the role of change practitioners, the need for change managers, the impact on the mental health of a person working as a change practitioner and much more. Today's discussion is so lovely, as Samantha and I discuss all things empathy and change management.

Full episode video (42 mins)


[02:56] - What change is all about.

[04:26] - Who needs a change manager?

[06:40] - Human-centric design of change management

[08:26] - Favourite change management projects that Samantha has worked on

[11:09] - Role of empathetic leadership in change management

[14:22] - Role of a change practitioner

[16:11] - Building trust with the clients as a change manager

[21:01] - Pockets of resistance within the change management community

[24:42] - What does bad change management look like?

[28:34] - The best way for a change practitioner to get people to trust you

[32:32] - Her way of working as a change manager

[35:06] - Her advice to someone who is going to work with a change manager


What is change all about?

A lot of people think change is all about the tools. So, they go after a change plan, change canvas, or think about a stakeholder map. It's true, some of those things need to be done, but some don’t.

But that's not what change is all about. Change is about your human connection, how you get people to understand what the change is, why you're doing it, and what it means to them. And what will happen to them when the change does take place

Change should be human-centric instead of tool-centric

There are some change practitioners, and some people in general, who think that change should focus on the tools, and not be so focused on that human aspect or focused on the outcome. Samantha says, “Change should be human-centric instead of tool-centric.”

Who needs a change manager?

Companies working on projects introducing new technology, new processes, new ways of working new behaviours, new knowledge need a change manager. Or if they want to change their culture within an organization, or there's a risk or compliance change that needs to happen, they also need a change manager.

Human-centric design of change management

Human-centric design is about putting people first. We need to understand what change means for people. We need to understand what people think about the change. How do they feel about it? What do they need to do about it? What are they saying about it? What do they need?

So it's about understanding what people think, feel, need and say about the change and how we get them ready to accept the change, and then adopt and adapt to the change?

Role of empathetic leadership in change management

The role of empathetic leadership in change management is absolutely huge. It is crucial that there should be leaders who are empathetic, who have gained trust, are prepared to be vulnerable, and have a good connection with their people. We need leaders to be transparent about change. Leaders need to communicate what they know, what they don't know, and things that are still being decided or things that we're still working through.

Leaders really need to be the face of change. Leaders don't just have to bring in the Change Manager to do the job for them, they need to bring them in and do the job alongside them and empower them in order to empower their people.

Bad change

A bad change can look like lots of different things. It could be as simple as people not using the new system or people using the new system and going back to the old system. Or you go live and the system doesn't work, or you go live and people don't know how to use the system. It can impact us individually. It can impact us personally. It can impact us professionally.

Samantha’s advice to someone who is going to work with a change manager

Be really clear about why you think you need a change manager, what you want them to do, what role you want them to play, what role you're going to play, and what should the outcome look like.

Know the why of the change

If you don't know why the change is occurring, you can't talk about the what, how, or the who. But the why quite often gets missed. The why touches your heart and your mind. And for anyone to accept change and adapt to it, we really need to touch their hearts and their minds in some way.


“If you don't have a leader that is connected to their people, it can really be a huge challenge for the change to be accepted in any way or able to be engaged in the change.”

“The most successful change occurs when people are engaged in it.”

“Leaders need to be vulnerable, they need to build trust and connection.”

“Empathy is not always give, give, and give. If it is you will burn out.”

“If you don't know why the change is occurring, you can't talk about the what, the how, or the who.”


Samantha Barr & Maven Change




Hi! I'm Leanne Butterworth, Empathy Speaker and Educator, University Lecturer and Mental Health Advocate.

Empathy First is a Brisbane-based social enterprise offering Empathy workshops, online courses and individual Empathy coaching to help you build connection and strengthen your relationships for personal and professional success.

Contact me today and let's talk about how you can put Empathy First.

Website. LinkedIn. Instagram. Facebook.

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