Driving change without hurting someone

June 8, 2020
Here are additional thoughts to inspire your communication with your team with empathy.

Studies on organizational change show that leaders across the board agree: if you want to lead a successful transformation, communicating empathetically is critical.

If you are a company leader hoping to undertake a successful organizational change, you need to make sure your team is on board and motivated to help make it happen.

The following strategies can you help you better understand your employees’ perspectives.

  • Understand your team 

Change consultants typically advise leaders to create personas of various audiences when they kick-off a change initiative.

But, considering that people’s wants and needs will evolve throughout the process, you should reevaluate these personas during every phase of the journey.

You can identify your audience through an interview (or 1-to-1 meetings) to understand perspective on typical mindsets. During the interviews, you can ask a question to uncover beliefs, feelings, their questions, and concerns about the company’s current strategy.

You could also ask if there were specific changes they hope management would (or would not) make. Using the insights from these interviews, you will be able to identify how each employee feel about the change effort, and planned communications based on whether they were excited, frightened, or frustrated.

  • Tell Your Team What to Expect 

While you may need to keep some facts private during a transition, the general rule is that the more informed your people are, the more they’ll be able to deal with discomfort.

So, learn about your team’s specific fears, then acknowledge them openly.

  • Involve Individuals at All Levels

A transformation won’t succeed without broad involvement. Involve your team members to take charge in certain parts of the change, incorporating ideas about how a change would impact them and their unique responsibilities.

An exercise like this can help everyone feel like an active participant with something valuable to add.

Ask “what if?” questions in one-on-one and team meetings to instill courage. This is your opportunity to help your team be bold.

Don’t ask what-ifs that only look at slightly different solutions or behaviors. Role model testing the boundaries — what are the guardrails and how can you push up against them?

Questions like “What if we were all freelancers? How would we think about this?” “What if we built this process from scratch?” or “What if our lead product suddenly became obsolete?” push people to think boldly.

People may be unsure just how far they can push at first. Recognize and reward initial steps and continue to ask for more.

Reinforce ideas by saying “That’s a great idea. Let’s push that idea even further.” Or “That’s a good start. We need to be asking ourselves these questions continually.”

This will reinforce the message that being a change-maker should be the norm, not the exception.

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