If there is one thing, we’ve all experienced a lot lately, it is change. In the last 2-3 years, we have witnessed more change – economic, political, social, and more – than we have at any point in the last 50 years. In business, too, change is the norm rather than the exception. So how can we stay positive and motivated during these times of flux? How can we keep our teams engaged and energised, and avoid ‘change fatigue’?
One of the most important things to remember is that whilst major change can impact hundreds, even thousands of people (a business transformation, for example, or a merger) not everyone will experience the impacts of the change at the same time. This means that as a leader, you can’t assume everyone will be feeling the same emotion together. Excitement, uncertainty, despondency, elation, and other feelings will certainly be staggered. In this situation, plotting where different groups of people are on a ‘change curve’ can help, and could be hugely useful when developing your communications and engagement strategy.
Speaking of communications – at times of change, this is key. Having a strong narrative is vital, but you must believe in it, and it must be bomb-proof. Be under no illusion: your narrative will be checked, challenged, sometimes argued against, and perhaps even ridiculed. You can’t predict this. But you can exercise control over how you deliver it. Keep your story simple and keep it relevant. Road-test it with supportive colleagues – ideally from different divisions, different levels in the business and different social groups.
Don’t be too proud to change your syntax if you’re told that your ‘style’ may not work. And don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know everything about the change that is underway. That doesn’t stop you from explaining the business imperative, the payoff, the risks, and even the mitigating steps you’re taking. Just because you’re a leader, no one expects you to have a crystal ball.
Finally, it’s worth having a ‘secret recipe’ up your sleeve to help you get your message out there. Even the best leaders in the world need support! Whatever change is underway, there will be some people in your business who are actively supportive, and others who are reluctant followers. Identify a group of active supporters and get them ‘on side’ to help you. Then try the 10-3-1 method:
- Identify TEN stakeholders whose role, network or personality will make a positive difference to your change
- Agree THREE messages that are in context to them, which they can use to help affirm your story
- Cement your ONE group-wide message that sits at the core of your overarching narrative.
If you want to listen to The Company Doctor talking about this topic head over his podcast here