In many organizations, change is perceived by employees as a deep and mostly dark secret. Faced with a lack of real information they can only wonder. Is there even a real plan? Is this black hole part of the plan? This leads to a general lack of trust in leadership and a significant reduction in productivity. Most people just can’t focus on their day-to-day assignments when there is a general feeling of impending doom.
This doesn’t have to happen! Here is a list of 5 common mistakes that change leaders make – the sins of change communication.
Failure to Communicate the “Big Picture”
Communicate the vision and values of your organization - widely and often. Tie your change initiative to the vision and values so that it makes sense for the people you lead. Arm you managers with the tools they need to be able to communicate the vision. Consider providing a presentation or talking points that they can customize to make the message relevent to their team.
Inconsistent messages make all messages unreliable to your employees. Communicate clearly and consistently – up and down the organization. This will mean taking the time to get all levels of leadership on the same page about the direction of the change and the specifics as they become available. It also means that you must ensure that the communication around different initiatives have a consistent set of underlying messages. For example, the implementation of a continuous improvement training program and the implementation of a new, more efficient system should be communicated in the context of the goal of improved efficiency and increased margins.
Lack of Attention to Individual Concerns
The best way to keep your organization productive during changes is to identify and address their concerns about the change. Leaders must admit that apprehension and concerns exist and then explain how the change will affect people personally. This is particularly true when the change will result in changes to an employees work location, pay or responsibilities. People will also be concerned about how they will be successful in the company after the change. Your communication should provide information about the resources available to help them navigate the change (for example, training).
Ignoring the Rumor Mill
You must manage the rumor mill. This requires two-way communications. Develop mechanism to receive questions. Sometimes an email box with a title like “Ask Leadership” will give you a lot of insight into what your employees think is happening. When dealing with rumors, you must:
- Act quickly to dispel gossip before “perception becomes reality”
- Attack misconceptions head-on
- Share developments
- Communicate results that are not perfect
Relying on Corporate Communications
Leaders are your best communicators. Information received from a known and trusted leader – immediate manager or department head – is more credible than information from Internal Communications, Human Resources or the Corporate Headquarters.
Leaders are your front line communicators. Their knowledge of direction, vision and plan regarding organizational change is essential. Even more critical is that their actions must support the communicated words. Leaders who don’t “walk the talk” of the change undermine the entire change effort.
Have you seen, or even committed, one of the sins of change communication? What tips do you want to share?
- 2 Ways to Make Your Culture Change Vision More Effective (hroutsider.com)
- Why Your Vision Gets Lost in Translation (hroutsider.com)
- Resistance can be good. Make Change Work! (itsaboutleaders.wordpress.com)
- Changing Culture One Individual at a Time (achieveblue.wordpress.com)