Managing change and communicating it to people can be a messy affair. It can be uncomfortable, problematic and challenging.
You potentially need to persuade many people that the journey you’re about to talk about is worth embarking on and your audience will be split into groups who’ll be positive, resistant, wary or ambivalent – so you’ll have a challenge on your hands.
Here are six tips to bear in mind:
1. Keep to your story
First, you need to be clear on what is changing and why – and back it up with hard facts. People need to understand that keeping the status quo is not an option. Identify what makes your company unique, and paint a compelling picture of a future that people want to be a part of. Once you’ve got it, you need to stick to it. A consistent story will create a clear future vision and can highlight the values that will underpin it.
2. Use the right sender
You can create the most enthralling story ever told, but if the right person isn’t telling it, it could fall on deaf ears. Leadership plays a critical role in communicating about change and will often form a strong and effective mouthpiece. But leaders shouldn’t always be heard – we need to hear from our colleagues too. Change advocates perform a crucial role also. They are a useful addition to leadership communication if they are used to produce a regular drumbeat of success stories. You need find real examples that bring your change journey to life and quote your people.
3. Don’t hide
It’s easy to hide away behind your desk if something isn’t working. If there’s resistance you can always attribute it to the effects of the Kubler-Ross change curve. Or if there are tricky questions to answer, someone else can always pick them up, or they’ll get forgotten. However, if you don’t respond to the difficult, probing questions, your change programme can quickly become one of the ever-increasing number of faceless programmes that are invading our organisations. By honestly answering these questions, you can build a strong sense of rapport and credibility with your audience and make your programme stand out from the crowd.
4. Exploit the rumour mill
The rumour mill is a powerful and unyielding force. It will always exist, so why not tap into it? Talk regularly about your change programme with your colleagues. They may pass on your story to their colleagues. You’ll never control the rumour mill but you certainly can use it to engage with people.
5. Keep it simple
Jargon is everywhere – in the way we write and speak. It takes real effort to transpose the words in your head to paper. Basic, everyday language sticks out like a sore thumb these days – so it makes sense that we should use it. Jargon is a big turn off for readers – so avoid it like the plague. Just like openly answering the tricky questions, everyday language can set you apart from any other change programmes.
6. Show empathy
Finally, the majority of employees want to know their organisation cares about them. They want to feel valued. They’ll want to know that your change programme has their interests at heart. This may not always be the case, but you can demonstrate empathy in how you write and in how you approach your communications strategy. For instance, town-halls which offer the chance for Q&A or one-to-one surgeries show that you care what your audience thinks more than the one-way street of videos or podcasts.
I’m sure there are plenty of other tips and good practices out there, and I would love to hear yours.