Effective change leadership is an important skill set. We share a few points to remember to ensure your company’s next change communication goes smoothly.
Another day, another change you need to communicate to your staff. Let’s face it, as a leader your job is increasingly focused on managing and communicating change.
To maximize your effectiveness, three keys will assure that your communication (whether email, video, live presentation or another medium) connects with your associates and helps manage change in your organization.
You need these keys because insufficient communication — or not communicating effectively — can result in a lack of alignment with your associates, who you need all pulling in the same direction. Ineffective communication can also result in team members feeling that a new change is another “flavor of the month,” making them less likely to take action. It can also affect morale, with team members feeling a new change is something management is doing to them versus being involved in the process.
Here are three critical points, or keys, to focus on when communicating change.
The Keys to Effective Change Leadership: Inform, Inspire, Involve
Most leader communications involve an inform step. We’re good at sharing the details of what’s happening. However, there are other specifics you’ll want to include for truly effective communication.
These include, but are not limited to:
- The Why – Why is this happening? Understanding why something is occurring helps your staff get more comfortable with the decisions leadership makes.
- Leadership Alignment – Most companies don’t make change decisions in a vacuum. A brief statement indicating that other leaders are on the same page will help with change adoption. A co-authored email or communication involving other leaders shows unity. Nothing is worse for managing change than having leaders who are not aligned and focused on the same goal.
- Employee Impact – After understanding the why most associates want to know how a change will impact them. Here’s where you may want to consider customizing multiple messages based on impact. For example, a software change may impact your customer service team differently than another team within your organization. Use the same base message but change the impact report by stakeholder group or audience.
Great leaders inspire others. As a leader, take the opportunity to inspire your associates by communicating your excitement for the change. Include a glimpse of the intended future after the change takes hold. Think through how work will be better and incorporate those ideas into all of your change communications. If you’re feeling inspired, your staff will mirror that energy.
There are numerous ways to build excitement in your organization:
- Don’t be afraid to make it personal. In many cases, leadership is just as frustrated with an issue as the staff is, so share your frustration. Then let them know how this new change will make a positive difference for the entire organization.
- Find a ‘hook’ that attracts attention. When Apple first introduced the iPod, instead of sharing technical specs, they talked about how users could fit 1,000 songs on the tiny device. Unsurprisingly, this little fact garnered more attention than a dry spec list.
- A traditional email or PowerPoint video doesn’t attract attention like it used to. Find a new way to get your message across, such as building anticipation leading up to a town hall and then announcing the upcoming change at that event. Or send a voicemail to everyone in the company from the CIO to let them know about an upcoming change. Even though everyone receives the same information, the fact they received it in a personal voicemail can have a strong impact on employee engagement. Short videos are also a unique way to garner attention.
Your associates want to know they have a voice in the change, so you need to take every opportunity to involve them in the process and to gauge emotions. Solicit their thoughts and feelings formally or informally with a link to a quick survey to collect feedback or ask them to share their thoughts and opinions via email. Be open to continued communication to ensure they understand and accept the change. People involved in the process are more likely to adopt the change more quickly.
When people feel informed, inspired and involved in changes taking place in an organization, it propels greater engagement — and greater trust — between leaders and their associates. By following these three keys, you can better communicate change and encourage staff adoption.