Tag Archives: communication

Empowering leaders to lead during change and transition


Managing change is more art than science because change deals fundamentally with peoples’ emotions.  Often, companies are reticent to engage in change management activities until all of the details about the change are known.  Leaders may do this for a variety of different reasons, but most commonly it’s because there is a level of comfort that comes with having most of the answers.  What’s harder is leading through change and transition when things are still a bit nebulous.

Take as an example a publicly traded company that was acquired.  Given the publicity around the deal, all employees were aware of the possibility and started formulating scenarios about what it would be like, feel like, etc.  However, it wasn’t until the deal went through that emotions kicked into high gear.  The questions that employees raised to their leaders were typical for this type of change, e.g. Will I still have a job? Will I need to relocate? What’s going to happen to our culture? What’s in it for me to stay?

When presented with these questions, and in the absence of detailed plans for what was going to happen next, most of the leaders shied away behind closed doors.  Employee frustration turned into employee impatience, especially for the high performers who didn’t feel the need to wait out the change process.  Employee retention became a huge problem; one which exposed the company to a high level of operational risk.  The company recognized what was happening and engaged us to create a series of workshops designed to address employee concerns by empowering their managers to be change leaders.

The workshops were kicked off while the company was largely still in the Endings phase and had three main objectives:

  1.  Share the change management approach
  2. Agree the role that each manager was going to play throughout the integration
  3. Create an action plan in response to the organizational issues resulting from the merger

We used a modified version of the William Bridges change curve (see below) to anchor everyone’s understanding of the change and where there might be a disconnect between individual contributors and managers.  We began by asking each manager to plot himself on the change curve.  We then had each manager plot their team on the change curve.  Over the course of the 15 workshops that we facilitated, it became clear that leaders were further along the change curve than their teams.  It also became clear that part of the challenge was that leaders were communicating from their vantage point, with better understanding and more clarity on the future direction of the company, while their teams were still in the “endings” phase, mourning the “loss” of their culture, ways of working and in many cases their colleagues.

We coached the leaders on the different roles that they would need to play as they and their teams moved along the change curve.  In the Endings phase, leaders were told they would need to listen, show empathy, and affirm the need to move forward.  During the Exploration phase, leaders would need to first educate their teams on the change and then engage them into the process once more details were known.  Finally, in the New Beginnings phase, the leader as a coach, would bring his team up the curve through further engagement and empowerment.

While the workshops did not provide pragmatists in the room with a checklist of things to do and say in response to the transitory period in which most people found themselves in, participants found value in having discussions with fellow managers about how their groups were feeling and learning of different ways to handle the uncertainty.  People also found great comfort in knowing that others were feeling the same way and were grateful for the fact that their leadership team had taken the time to organize these workshops to provide the forum for sharing the difficult emotions that arise during the merging of two companies.

The key to the success of these workshops were as follows:

  • We started at the top and cascaded the approach and the messages to ensure consistency
  • We empowered managers to create and execute action plans to effect the changes that could be effected
  • We created a feedback loop to ensure that leaders were aware of employee concerns and questions and used the feedback to guide future communications

Precillia Redmond
PA Consulting Group

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Building trust in leadership


Lack of trust is undoubtedly a major barrier to business success. It undermines the critical relationships that enable sustained performance and exposes the business and its leadership to painful ongoing scrutiny, cynicism and challenge. Communication plays an essential role in rebuilding trust – but corporations no longer control the flow of news and opinion. In today’s business world, organizations find it hard to keep pace with multiple media delivering multiple messages, 24/7, and an ever-increasing range and number of stakeholders who want to have their say.

 With so much ‘noise’ and communications activity, many CEOs and senior leaders can struggle to get their messages across effectively or, at times, to hear what their stakeholders – whether customers, employees, suppliers, the media or other interested parties – might be telling them.

 If senior leaders fail to establish an effective dialogue with their diverse stakeholders, they risk appearing introspective and out of touch. Worse, failing to engage with them effectively may damage their organization, its reputation and/or its finances.

 As the stakeholder landscape becomes more complex and organizational boundaries are extended. How can leaders communicate and engage with such diverse and frequently remote groups?

 There is a solution: intimacy. The word might sound strange, but if the digital world of emails, text messaging and mobile communications creates distance in our communications, intimacy in leadership brings people closer together, enabling more effective communication.

Intimate leaders have authentic conversations. They use a lower tech approach to participate and engage in dialogue, express their own views and listen to the opinions of others. They are prepared to be challenged while pursuing deeper understanding and meaning. They are accessible and connected. And for all those reasons, they are best equipped to gain trust and lead their organizations through profound change.

 Teneka Polite

Change Management Consultant

PA Consulting Group

Making the Most of Internal Communications


 

Most companies are operating in fragile economies, under increasing price pressures, with employees who are still concerned about the stability of their professional futures. This environment makes the development and execution of an effective internal communications strategy more critical than ever. Without clear communications and a well-designed strategy, uninformed employees can easily become misguided, developing their own (often inaccurate) rumors and ideas about the state of the business.

Unfortunately, internal communications strategies can be seen as a ‘nice to have’, and they are often the first exclusions from budgets. However, having a strong internal communications strategy does not have to be difficult or expensive. In fact, many communications strategies are surprisingly simple and don’t require much resource at all.

Below is an example of an internal communications plan that we developed for the roll out of a new process management tool.

There are three main ways to ensure successful internal communications:

Understand your audience: segmenting your audience is the cornerstone of any effective communications plan. It is crucial you clarify your objectives and understand how you want your employees to react. It is easy to forget communications can be interpreted differently by different groups, so consider how to tailor your communications without diluting your message.

Ensure your leaders are visible: understanding how you want your staff to change is one thing; sustaining that change is another. In times of change, people look to their leaders for guidance, so ensure those driving the change are a clearly visible part of any communications strategy. Developing two-way communication between employees and senior management about the future strategy can also facilitate engagement and motivation.

Plan for success: you can’t prepare for everything, but it helps to have a flexible plan. Set expectations upfront about the timeline for communications and what your employees can expect when. Sustained communications will increase credibility of messages and help avoid knee-jerk reactions to anything unexpected.

And most importantly keep your messages clear and consistent.

– Teneka Polite, Change Management Consultant
PA Consulting Group

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