Six ways to improve how you communicate change

What does it mean, practically, to “get people on board” with change?

It often boils down to communication. Specifically, effective change communication is:

  • Early & often
  • Clear & compelling
  • Other-centered

 

To expand on that, here are six principles to communicate change more effectively. You don’t have to think of yourself as a natural communicator to be able to communicate well through change. These principles can help!

  1. Say it early 

Get out in front – try not to surprise people or expect last-minute heroic pivots. Last-minute heroic pivots should be for crises. Lots of people lead as if they’re in a crisis all the time because they don’t have the patience, tools, or experience to lead otherwise. This will burn people out.

  1. Say it often

Don’t underestimate the number of times and variety of ways you’ll need to communicate. Once you feel you’ve almost clownishly over-communicated, over a long enough period of time, you *might* have done enough.

  1. Say it in a way that matters to the people affected

This isn’t really just about communication–ideally, the change itself is rooted in things people have actually asked for. There’s much less resistance that way. But as you communicate, remember that *your* reasons for changing may be very different than the reasons the people affected want to come to work. “Efficiency,” for example, sounds awesome to someone who thinks about capital allocation but may sound threatening to someone who’s comfortable with the process they’ve run for seventeen years.

  1. Say it clearly 

Don’t use vague generalizations, buzzwords, or platitudes that you think soften the blow somehow.  People are pretty good at detecting untruths, and when they do, it’s that much harder to trust the change. It’s OK to say, “Here’s what we don’t know right now,” or, “I’m not sure how long this will last, but here are some of the things we’ll track.”

  1. Say it compellingly 

Spend some time listening to and reading truly effective orators. Think about what makes their words so compelling. Often it’s some or all of the following:

  • Vivid storytelling
  • Succinct & punchy
  • Appropriate emotion/vulnerability
  • Balancing levitas (humor) and gravitas (seriousness)
  • Paints a picture of the better world that we can build together
  • Uses language, values and concepts that are directly related to what their audience understands and cares about
  • Written as if always speaking to a specific person rather than to a generic “team” or “company”
  • Practiced, not off the cuff. It’s practice and discipline that produce the kind of communicator who can do well off the cuff

 

  1. Anticipate their questions

Finally, as you think through how people will receive this, consider the questions they’ll naturally have. Anticipate and answer as many of them as you can. Even if you don’t have answers, acknowledging the questions up front goes a long way toward earning trust and respect.

Let us help you get your team on board with change. Contact one of our experts today.

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