Times of business transformation — whether by design or due to a crisis — will test an organization’s resilience, confidence and culture. A lot of people resist change because it threatens their sense of security, and they will require not only more frequent but more thoughtful communications to get on-board and move in a new direction.
If you’re a leader guiding your organization in a new direction, keep these best practices in mind as you craft your communication strategy:
1. Lead the narrative. In the absence of information, people fill in the gaps themselves and usually paint things in the worst light. Take control of the narrative by communicating early and often, staying ahead of the “grapevine” and setting the tone and content.
2. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them and tell them again. A message sent is not always a message received. People often need to hear information many times before it sets in or before they actually believe it’s real. Be sure to repeat key messages often, even within the same presentation, to ensure they are heard.
3. Trust is built via a series of kept promises. Even within established teams, times of great change require new connections of trust to be built. In communications that speak to the future, be sure that promises made are kept, and in communications that look back, that kept promises are celebrated.
4. Be visible at the helm. The senior leader is a “canary in the coal mine” for the entire organization, especially in times of change. It’s more important than ever to be visibly present steering the ship and leading with visible confidence.
5. Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the end of the day, your employees are all human beings who seek security even before fulfillment. In times of change, don’t forget to speak to their concerns for their jobs, their roles, how changes might impact them, and where they fit in the new future.
6. Build momentum by celebrating successes along the way. With each step forward on a new path and every success that comes with it, employees’ anxieties about the change are diminished. Be sure to flag, highlight and celebrate successes, both small and large, whenever you can.
7. Make sure your leadership team has the playbook and sticks to it. It is critical that employees hear the same messages from your executives as they do from the leader. Consistency builds confidence; variance builds confusion. The best teams document their mission, vision, strategy, values, etc. and even develop standard scripts about how to talk about them, so they present the information consistently and with confidence.
Remember, at the end of the day, people will follow you if you’re leading them to a better place. Paint the vision, explain why, show them how, and you’ll all get there together.