When your company is in the midst of transformative change, one of the most important pieces of change leadership is engaging the hearts and minds of your people through consistent and effective communication. What you say matters, and you have a responsibility to each member of your team to support them in understanding and processing the challenges of the change.
First and foremost, make sure you’re giving your employees clear context about the change, why it’s happening, and what it means. As you talk to your team about what’s going on, make sure to:
- Illuminate a clear sense of purpose around the change — this makes it easier for your employees to navigate the ambiguity of it
- Paint a picture of the company’s vision around the change — this gives people an “end in sight” and a destination to reach
- Outline an actionable plan for how to navigate the change
- Identify each individual’s role within the change — this helps them feel a sense of commitment
Be aware of how people are talking about the change. You’ll have your own feelings (and they may not always be positive) about what’s shifting in the company, but as a leader it’s important to redirect unhelpful venting or complaining to solution-oriented conversations. Instead of criticizing the challenging elements of the change, be a role model to your team and give equal air time to words of affirmation and approval.
Empathize with what your employees are going through, but don’t let them catastrophize. Listen and be understanding, but challenge extreme viewpoints and do what you can to move in a more pragmatic, positive direction. It’s your job to keep your team as grounded and stable as you can while you all move through times of transformative change. Be open and honest, but still take the time to think about what you say to your team, and how to say it. When communicating with employees remember to:
- Define the optimal outcome
- Share the steps the team will be taking and be clear about the ones they won’t be taking
- Adapt your messaging based on the needs and motivators for each person
- Employ the Rule of 7 — change is an ongoing process and people need to see or hear a message at least seven times in different ways
Elena is a consultant at Blue Beyond with expertise in organizational development, leadership development, and talent management. She holds a PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology and has contributed to published research entitled “Managers’ and Diversity Experts’ Perceptions of Multiculturalism and Internationalism in Organizations.”