“I’ve said this five times!”
Are your sponsors and executives getting communication fatigue?
It’s certainly tempting to get frustrated with our organizations for “not getting it” as we strive to lead change.
Therefore, how many times do we have to say the same thing, to the same people, to get the idea across?
Ten years ago the metric was 3-5 times using 3-5 different communication vehicles.
After speaking with my marketing agency, they are claiming that people need to hear and see a message 10-12 times via different communication methods.
This is due to the amount of information that people are receiving every day.
What a huge increase!
How do we increase the amount of times we communicate the pertinent information without saturating our stakeholders?
One of the biggest mistakes we make is to let our communication within our organization continue to be a one-way flow — from us to our stakeholder.
Every person interprets information differently.
Not only that, but every person has a different emotional context based on their own life experiences.
Without an opportunity to ask questions and to understand, employees and co-workers can become frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, or excited.
As a result, these emotional reactions become roadblocks to an organization’s productivity during times of extreme change.
In a stressful or changing work environment, a person’s ability to process information decreases as their need to process their emotions increases.
I call this overwhelmed state of mind, “the brain on change.”
The trick, therefore, is to acknowledge this reality and to alter the way you communicate.
While the following may seem like a rehash of “Communication 101”, as change professionals, it’s easy to lose sight of the basics as we focus on our higher-level initiatives.
So, let’s get back to basics and check-in to see how well you’re doing with 3 key change leadership communication skills.
1. “Listen, no matter what”.
It may seem obvious that the first step to getting people to listen to you is to listen to them!
Build both one-way and two-way communication vehicles to help people build their trust and understanding.
One-way communication vehicles include:
- E-mail alerts and announcements (e.g., project newsletter)
- Blog posts, whitepapers, and educational resources (e.g., project website)
- Recorded training programs (e.g., microlearning modules with programs like 7taps)
On the other hand, two-way communication vehicles include:
- Using a project management system (Asana, Teamwork, Monday, etc.) and internal communication system (Messenger, Slack, WhatsApp, etc.) that enable both 1-on-1 and group communications. In fact, I was speaking with a technology company called Pandatron that integrates AI into the change management methodology. This both expands the reach of the number of stakeholders and provides two-way communication with them.
- Webinars with Q&A components
- Conduct “listening sessions” and “dialogics” where you can demonstrate your commitment to the project.
- Bring group coaching into the mix to build a common understanding of the change amongst key stakeholders (even if they are resisting the project).
- Use a Coach Approach to build quick effective rapport across the organization with those you interact with
Another concept to pay attention to comes from the PR Crisis Communications field.
They say that for every negative message that is communicated, we need to have two positive messages.
Paying attention to external technology, marketing, and public relations practices is a great way to stay current with your communication work.
2. “Take visible action”.
Once you’ve begun listening and opening both one-way and two-way communication vehicles, you’ve taken the first step.
Now, demonstrate that you’ve heard your stakeholders.
You need to show your stakeholders that what they say and do does have an impact, because not doing this can mean they stop engaging with you.
On a regular basis, choose two requests or recommendations that have been made of you by employees and teams, and implement them immediately.
When possible, don’t let more than 3 business days go by
Furthermore, communicate the action to those impacted, including updates as you go along.
Give them credit where due – this is the step that is often missed or forgotten in our communication work.
Feedback becomes a heavy lift when we’re trying to deliver on an intense project plan but it is really important to find time to get this work completed.
Nothing sets a project backwards on stakeholder engagement like getting information (yes, even a pulse survey) without letting the participants know what the results of their input were and how it will be used moving forward.
Once you do this, watch the “rumor mill” work for you!
3. “It’s not all about you!”
Reframe your mindset and get “curious” about how your colleagues feel about the change(s) that you are leading them through.
Where are they on the change adoption curve?
Are they only superficially aware of what the changes mean to them?
Can you accurately provide your executives with this information?
What percentage error are you able to predict on your numbers?
Also, what are the next most important 3 actions that must be taken to address the organizational dynamic based on your assessment of where it is now?
Finally, what information, encouragement, and knowledge do stakeholders need and from whom in order to be successful?
Could any of these leadership communication tips help your next change management initiative?
As I said before, this may come across as a “back to basics” review.
Again, it’s easy, and sometimes tempting, to lose sight of the basics as we, change professionals, focus on the big picture.
In conclusion, remember the following:
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou
Accordingly, go beyond the basics into a deep-dive and download our free Practitioner Guide, “Logic Isn’t Enough Addressing the Emotional Side of Change Management”.