When was the last time you had to talk to your team about Organisation wide change, or change of any sort for that matter? For most if us, it will have been within the last month, and most certainly within the last 3 months.
It may have been about a new ‘Working from home’ policy, an upcoming transformation program; culture, wellness, vision & values review, or perhaps a structure review due to the current economic climate and circumstances. It could also have simply been communicating about a new policy or strategy, a revised annual plan, decisions made that effect your team, or a change in direction in some parts of the business. The list of things we have to communicate as a leaders is long and often feels relentless.
Communication is one of the top 3 leadership skills that you draw on every single day, and when it comes to change, of any sort (organisation wide, department or team, or simply relevant to an individual), it is our job as leaders to communicate it in a way that helps our people understand it, connect to it and engage with it.
This next series of newsletters will be exploring the 6 fundamentals of Meaning-full engagement, and providing you with some tools to help along the way, fresh from my ‘Get Better Buy-in’ engagement program for leaders. Being more deliberate and intentional about how you engage your teams, your customers, your stakeholders, is one of the most effective ways to not only get people on board with change, but to embrace and champion it.
So - let’s crack on with the first one.
My motto in life and leadership is ‘Everything we do, starts, and ends, with People”, so of course, that is where we will start:
Fundamental #1: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Before you engage and communicate any message to a group of people, it is critical to make time to think about who you are speaking to and why the topic matters, to them. It is one of the first questions I will ask a leader when planning any sort of comms or engagement: ‘Who is your audience?’ followed by ‘what is important to them?’
Old school leaders start with “This is the message I need to communicate. People just need get on board and suck it up, whether they like it or not”. This style is disrespectful to your audience, (and, just in case you didn't know - it's not OK to communicate like this anymore, so please - stop it - or call me, I'm here to help...)
The more respectful thing to do is to get to know your audience.
New school leaders think ‘How can I deliver this in a way that will help my team better understand it and it be received well?”
By starting with your audience, versus your message, it allows you to create a more targeted and relevant message because you are crystal clear on WHO the message is for and what matters to them. #matterb4message - Always.
Knowing your audience is about spending time getting inside their head and heart, by asking yourself a few questions and answering from their point of view. Knowing your audience requires empathy - (another of the top 3 leadership skills you draw on everyday).
There are 2 useful tools that can help you look at things from your peoples perspective. They are The 8 P’s and Empathy Mapping.
The first tool - The 8 P’s (aside from being a linguaphile's dream), is a series of questions to think about as if you were your staff member.
It’s most effective done at the individual team member level first, and then pulled together to give yourself a team snap shot, but equally you can also just run through it at a team level.
Here’s the exercise:
Grab a piece of paper, (yep - old school)…. And put the persons name at the top of the page. Divide the page into 8 boxes and in each box think about the following questions and answer with the staff member in mind:
Perspective: What will they think about this? What’s their perspective?
Position: What does it mean for them in their position?
Pay-off: What’s the pay-off? What’s in it for them? What problems does it solve?
Purpose: What’s the purpose of the change? Why is it important, and how does it relate it to their role?
Potential: What’s the potential impact - what difference will it make?
Plan: What’s the plan? What needs to happen? Next steps, timings, etc
Part: What’s their part in all this? What do you need from them?
Pitch: What do they need to hear the most? What’s the best way to Pitch it to be well received?
It's also useful to note whether they will likely respond positively or negatively to the change that is coming.
(If you want to go a little fancier and a perhaps better visually, I have a template for both the team and individual tools I can send your. Simply reply to this email with ‘8P’s template Please’ in the subject line and I will send it on through). #yourewelcome
Back to the exercise: Do this for each of your staff and then take a birds eye view across the sheets
Are there common themes coming through? What do you notice across the staff; similarities? disparities? Gaping holes - things you couldn't really answer?
For example, if it looks like the majority of staff will be feeling positive about the change, the language in your messaging should reflect this, if the opposite is true, and there is a negative majority, you will know to shift your language palette. Or, if you noticed one of the sections is missing or was hard to fill out, why is this? what does this tell you?
Don't rush this - sit with this for a couple of days and see what else pops into your head.
By thinking about these questions, at an individual and team level, and noticing the common themes, it gives you insight and knowledge on where to focus.
It is one of the steps in the right direction for creating more meaningful messages that speak to people, and shows that you understand what this change means for them, and the impact it is likely to have on their role and the team. (Do note: You will be making some assumptions as you work through this, so the better you know your people, the easier it is to answer these questions. You can of course always validate your thinking with your people if you need to).
We will cover off the second tool - Empathy mapping - in the next newsletter, in a fortnight.
In the meantime, find an opportunity to give this a go - next time you have a message of change to communicate to your team, or to an individual, spend a little bit of time getting inside their world and doing some thinking, before speaking.
Find what matters first, then craft the message.
If you have any big organisational change happening soon, and would like to know more about how my 'Get Better Buy-In' Program can help your leaders, please get in touch, I'd love to chat.