Considering how important the leader’s role is in communicating change effectively, and how poorly many leaders do it, I am proposing an oath, or more directly, a series of pledges to help all of us as leaders do the right things when communicating about change.
Change is all around us, and as leaders we must become effective communicators of it. Why? Because we have been asked to lead, which includes helping implement change. And because when we communicate it effectively, we are fulfilling part of the reason we get a paycheck.
Beyond the responsibility to the organization, we have a responsibility to those we lead too. When we communicate change effectively, we are making life and work easier for the members of our team. Change can be hard – and even harder when it is being thrust on you and you don’t understanding it.
So while we might not have a sacred trust related to people’s health or upholding the Constitution, as a leader we do carry an important burden and responsibility when it comes to communicating change effectively.
Here is my proposed 6 part Pledge for all of us as leaders, to remind us of the responsibility we have to help make change happen successfully.
I solemnly pledge to start communicating early. Too many leaders want to wait to have all of the information before discussing a change. While those intentions might be good, while you are waiting, people are wondering, and guessing and gossiping about what is coming. When I communicate early I reduce anxiety and raise clarity – even if I don’t have all the information yet.
I solemnly pledge to ask more questions. Too many leaders try to anticipate the questions people will have and prepare answers. Rather, I will ask people what their questions are and what their concerns are, because I can’t possibly know everything they are thinking, and it changes the dynamic when I ask more than talk.
I solemnly pledge to create conversation, not (more) PowerPoint slides. It really is about a conversation, and if I want to influence and move people to see the change as a positive thing, the best way to do that is through true conversation, not a slicker set of slides.
I solemnly pledge to acknowledge and understand resistance. Resistance is naturally occurring, and isn’t necessarily bad. In fact, resistance represents energy and someone willing to stand up for something they care about. When I remember that resistance is energy, I know the best way to deal with it is to let it be heard. Sometimes people will have a valid concern. Sometimes they just want to be heard. In any event, resistance isn’t to be squelched, it is to be acknowledged and understood, even if it isn’t agreed with.
I solemnly pledge to be patient. Most changes of any sort take some amount of time for us to accept. As leaders we have often been privy to or thinking about a change far longer than those we lead. Because of this, I can’t expect others to jump on my change bandwagon immediately. I must give them time to think through, learn about and come to see what I see. Most often that will happen if we are a little less pushy and a lot more patient.
I solemnly pledge to communicate regularly. Communicating a change isn’t a flu shot, it is more like a bath. We get a flu shot once a year, but (hopefully) we take baths far more often. As a communicating leader I realize I must continue to communicate the messages and perspectives, and continue to give others the chance to engage in the conversation too.
As a leader, I encourage you to consider these pledges carefully. And if you care to join me, you will be making a commitment to communicate more effectively, and lead with greater influence.