No change without the chat

captain-sailor1Last time, we discussed the importance of real leadership during uncertain times. Safe to say, the steep decline in oil prices this year leaves entire organizations feeling like landlubbers on a tramp steamer.

We talked about change management, not the kind you get back from the barista, but organizational change and how to make it happen.

The way I see it, the key to effective management of change is communication. And, I’m not alone.

Too often, checking the box for communication consists of an email or two from the top, a page on the company Intranet and item number 4 on the all-staff meeting agenda, right after the “leftover food in the ‘fridge” announcement. Too often, and too bad.

Communication that works does not just happen. As any communication pro will tell you, first you dig into where you are and how you got there. Mostly, digging means asking questions and listening, but without one hand on the smartphone. To really listen, you have to put the phone down and wait for a reply. Sounds tough, I know. But it can be done.

Next, goals are established, messages developed and the right media platforms set. Some ideas are best conveyed visually, maybe a video or infographic, while others deserve wordcrafting that captures a leader’s true meaning. This may seem easy, but it’s not something you entrust to a ne’er-do-well cousin, trust me.

Once reviewed and approved, the plan is carried out. Leaders must participate in the meetings and the videos and whatever else will get the story across. After all, communications is a management function and leaders must own the message.

While communications are ongoing, chapters in the story end. Pick at date to step back, debrief and assess outcomes. Use what you learn to make the next chapter better.

The value of communication in uncertain times is clear. So is the importance of taking advantage of periods of uncertainty to reflect rather than simply react.

“A period of change is the ideal time for a manager to assess his or her own skills, to ask questions and tap into the organization’s knowledge,” notes Phillip Weiss, a Denver-based management consultant.

Weiss also has these tips for effective communications:

  • Make it clear, uncomplicated and with a specific goal;
  • Repeat key messages for understanding and retention;
  • Discussions, whether in person or online, must be frank and credible;
  • Show the benefit to organization and staff;
  • Feedback is truly welcome.

As instability continues to wash over the industry, it is more important than ever for leaders to show they are up to the task of charting new courses for their organizations. Communications is the key.

How are you handling this critical element? Please don’t tell me you are actually considering bringing in the ne’er-do-well cousin. Compared to communications that is handled badly, effective communications is easily worth its weight. Pick up the phone or drop me a line. Let’s talk.

Posted March 19, 2015