Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

The Concept of Change Means Leaders Must Communicate

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Leaders are the facilitators of change within their organization. As such, in implementing an initiative or new direction, they must employ proven techniques and strategies to ensure good communication with their employees. This is true of the entire process of change—from beginning to end. Without open and effective communication, leaders can create problems and issues that hinder their efforts to make the needed changes.

Leaders should understand that change is uncomfortable, and adapting to change can be confusing and messy until the “kinks” are worked out. There is no way to communicate change to employees that makes it an enjoyable process. While planning for change can list tasks and responsibilities, it doesn’t lessen the discomfort of altering long-held behaviors and habits that comprise individual employee comfort zones.

Because change is in fact an ongoing, difficult process that pulls people out of their comfort zones, the importance of good communication is magnified. It becomes crucial for managers and leaders to gather outside sources of information, solicit employee feedback and perspectives, and use this information to create specific “plans of attack.” Every group is unique and a cookie cutter approach to communicating and managing change will not work.

Within the realm of a leader’s main responsibilities is the role of effectively conveying the need for change to his or her employees. The concept of change means that leaders must communicate during the planning, announcing, implementation and completion of the process of change within their organization.

Proven techniques for facilitating smooth and effective communication include:

Identify and Communicate the Results to Be Achieved

The communication of change means that leaders must clearly articulate the results they want and the specific means required to achieve them. Often leaders must communicate two messages simultaneously: the macro, or “big picture” of how the changes in their unit plays a role in the overall changes within the organization, and the micro, or detailed picture of the specific changes to be made.

When leaders communicate both the macro and micro views of change, they give their employees a balanced picture of how their contributions to facilitating change benefit the organization. Surveys have shown that employees are markedly more effective when they understand how their efforts contribute to the overall goals of the organization.

Simplify Jargon and Buzzwords

Many organizations and industries have developed their own jargon and buzzwords. Often managers, leaders and employees rely heavily on these specialized terms. However, many of these words lack real substance or meaning in their daily use. Words and phrases such as “responsive,” “employee friendly,” “customer focused,” “empowered” and others should have specific meanings. For instance, if an organization is responsive, what exactly does that mean to leaders and employees? What are the parameters defining this word’s use and application? The same is true for any other buzzword: tts definition should be plain to employees so they are clear on what the term means and how it applies in the workplace.

Share Information Early and Often

Managers and leaders should share as much information as possible with their employees.

In many large publicly owned organizations, the emphasis is placed on good communication with investors, not employees. While obviously the importance of the former cannot be argued, it is the latter that does the work of moving the organization forward.

Consequently, when employees learn of organizational changes and developments through the media or the rumor mill, they become more apprehensive and less productive until put at ease. Rather than lose time and revenue to this anxiety and uncertainty, managers and leaders communicate as much information as they can up front.

Maintain Quality and Consistency

Managers and leaders should maintain a consistent, quality flow of information to their employees. Due to the ease with which communication channels can get bogged down with meaningless information, leaders should filter their communications to ensure significant and substantial information is imparted to their employees.

Don’t Underestimate the Duration of Change

Many leaders fail to appreciate the length of time required to develop, nurture and maintain change within their organization. Effective change goes beyond its announcement or the introduction of new programs to implement it.

Leaders must understand that organizational change means altering ingrained personal habits. This takes time, and open and active communication is required throughout the process. Leaders should not shortchange it with ineffective communication at critical, often later stages of change.

Use a Variety of Communication Pathways

Effective communication of change is as varied as each individual involved in the process. Many managers and leaders limit their communications during change to a single medium such as email or the intranet.

If managers and leaders wish to develop an effective communication program during the process of change, they should transmit their message through a variety of means, such as unit/company meetings, email/intranet updates and daily interactions.

Don’t Confuse Process with Communication

Managers and leaders should not confuse the process of change with communication. The process of change can include creating vision, developing teams, planning and countless meetings. Properly designed, these can be effective communication vehicles, but not sufficient to meet the communication requirements of organizational change.

Provide Ample Opportunity for Feedback and Concerns

Managers and leaders should provide their employees ample opportunities to share their fears and concerns, ask questions and share insights. Managers and leaders should make addressing employee concerns and following up with answers and informational updates a primary concern. This empowers employees and gives them ownership in ideas and concepts. It keeps key people from leaving, and often prevents those who remain from sabotaging the process of change.

Excerpt: Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD


Dealing With the Challenges of Change

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Use These Seven Strategies to Respond to Change

Communication Has to Start With Telling the Truth

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Impact of Change on Individuals: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Strengthening Leadership Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

4 Responses

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  1. Your emphasis on clear and concise communication is great Timothy! I would say that poor “give and take” and unclear focus causes many misunderstandings. I also appreciate that you mention giving the time for feedback and concerns. When others do not feel they have any input or are not listened to, it usually creates a tense and not “team” atmosphere!

    Kimberly Kline

    March 13, 2013 at 2:48 pm

  2. Timothy, you absolutely right that communication is a vital part of any leader’s role. In fact it may be the most important part. For managers and leaders who would rather duck the issue – I say this – your people aren’t stupid. If you do not provide them with an honest account of what’s happening they will fill in the gaps in their knowledge themselves and, in my experience, they will always fill the gaps with the most pessimistic interpretation of events. Be honest, be as open as you can be and communicate often. It’s the only way to succeed in business today.

    Ara ohanian (@aohanian)

    March 14, 2013 at 5:52 am

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