Consult Widely And Speak Plainly During The Change Process

Consult Widely And Speak Plainly During The Change Process

(This the third post in a five-part series on Genuine Engagement)

During times of organisational change, one of the biggest hurdles to a successful outcome is our ability to embrace the change. Some would rather continue with the status quo, flawed though it may be, than adopt the strategies, procedures or processes necessary for their organisation to progress.

The following are just some of the reasons why an employee might be resistant to change:

  • Concerns that the organisation is making a big mistake
  • Not being respected/consulted
  • Reluctant to learn something new
  • Feeling rushed to learn/adopt a new way of working
  • Fear of failure to adapt
  • Fear of being personally worse off at the end of the process
  • Fear of redundancy

It follows that if a change process is to have any measure of success, leaders should consult their employees to find out any fears and concerns they might have about the proposed improvements.

When consulting widely, it is usual to encounter people that transition slowly, others that come on board straight away, and a majority who sit somewhere in between: sceptical at first but willing to engage when convinced the change has merit. It is, therefore, necessary to make allowances for these different adoption rates.

By engaging as wide an audience as possible, an organisation increases the possibility of a change initiative being both successful and sustainable. Employee consultations can be facilitated through workshops, face-to-face, one-on-one meetings, communication schedules, checkpoints, etc. Open communication channels will encourage employees to ask questions, air their concerns and also provide valuable frontline insights that might influence the strategy. An improvement project plan can show those areas involved in the change initiative, the impacted employees, and also include an engagement strategy. With careful planning, the extra time it takes to carry out a broad consultation can be minimised.

This post is a excerpt from the ‘Consult Widely, Speak Plainly’ LWI Online Learning Module.

Speak plainly 

Jargon can be confusing. Employees working, say, on the shop floor might not understand the jargon and buzz words that are often liberally sprinkled through the language of upper management. If you were to tell them that you want to sit down ‘ASAP‘ and ‘unpack‘ (analyse) the change management strategy with them, they might think you have a hard copy of the strategy stashed in a suitcase somewhere. As for ASAP, not everyone speaks in acronyms.

When a leader avoids the use of jargon, employees will know exactly what is being said and will be more likely to have confidence in the leader’s ability to control the change process.

Often a leader will use complex statements that sound impressive but have little meaning to disguise their lack of understanding of a subject. If you find yourself using a lot of jargon, you might want to ask yourself if you are clear about the message you are trying to convey. Write it down or say it out loud using words and phrases that are unlikely to be misinterpreted. If in doubt, test it on a 15-year-old. If they understand your intent, then others probably will too.

Repeat, repeat, repeat

The importance of repeating important messages cannot be overstated. While there is much to be communicated, not all messages are created equal. Make sure the important messages are identified, separated and handled personally by you to ensure the intent of the message is clearly understood. Then communicate these messages through a range of media so people hear the same message from a variety of reliable sources. Ask follow-up questions to check for understanding.

The timing of messages/announcements is as equally as important as their clarity. If expected announcements are delayed, employees might be seduced into listening to gossip and speculation.

And remember, your view expressed personally using plain language that everyone can understand is the most powerful arrow in your communication quiver.

Read the first post in this series: Mind the Credibility Gap: Say what you mean and mean what you say!

And the second post: The Power of Employee Ideas

Daniel Jackson is the author of “The Leader Who Inspires – increase your influence and ignite your passion to succeed” and the creator of LWI Advance Your Career. Check out his LWI Programs here.