Tips and bytes
How to stay on track when communicating change.
When introducing change – give one good reason why and actively acknowledge people’s most likely concerns. Failing to flag concerns doesn’t mean they will disappear. Instead, they will amplify. This is a particularly common mistake when announcing change in writing. If you find yourself doing this, re-imagine your message as a face-to-face conversation with your intended audience.
You will most likely find yourself taking a more consultative approach.
Here are five further ways to stay on track and avoid creating an elephant in the room:
- Test out ‘gut reaction’. Imagine delivering this news to friends who were going to be affected by it. How would they react?
- Build your empathy muscles. Spend time getting to know the audience in some way. And when you can’t know the audience, imagine what a day in their life in this context would be like? What makes their day fun, difficult or bearable? What are their priorities, drivers, frustrations and concerns? How does their work day, fit with their home life?
- Allow people to input and shape this change. Ensure you communicate early enough in the process to allow people to have some say in exactly how the change is implemented. And – if they are being asked to explain this change to others – ask for their help in shaping the communications’ packs and tools you would like them to use. Where possible, give choices within a defined framework rather than present a ‘done deal’. This focuses attention on the choice and retains an all-important degree of autonomy.
- Deliver your message respectfully – using natural language. Avoid a formal tone and give one good, solid reason why this is happening – one that you believe yourself. Avoid a list of other, weaker reasons. These then dilute your main case and open up arguments against the change. Acknowledge the concerns you believe people may have, being careful not to dismiss them.
- And when you’ve done the above, stand back and check the communications you are preparing? Can you see all likely perspectives? Can you guess at some less likely ones? Who else might know?
Learn how to tell stories for yourself and your organisation.
Stories are how we make sense of the world and when we understand how narrative works, we can deploy stories as a type of perceptual switch.
All of us tell personal and organisational stories to other people all the time. Although what is often missing is the purposeful use of story to inspire other meanings, to see things in a new light and help people move forward easily.
We also tell ourselves stories – but sometimes barely notice that is what we are doing. We join bits of information together to make sense of them and so construct an interpretation of events – a story – that may not always be the most helpful one. Good leaders and storytellers often build and extend on this. They draw parallels or use new stories that challenge our assumptions and shift and develop our understanding.
Narrative and illustrative thinking are increasingly being recognised in the business world as powerful and essential approaches in leadership, communications and branding. And are also fast becoming the focus of effective internal and external communications strategies.
This is because stories:
- CONNECT. They help us pass on ideas and messages in a way that connects and attunes. Through stories we can connect with people, we can connect people to ideas and we can connect our teams to a higher sense of purpose and business understanding.
- MOVE PEOPLE TO ACTION. Stories talk to the unconscious as well as the conscious mind. They can trigger the emotive responses that truly drive our behaviour and so are more powerful than other linguistic forms of information. Your ideas become more compelling.
- ARE REMEMBERED in a way that other information is not. Stories activate the more experiential areas of our brains – triggering superior recall and more meaning than when similar information is delivered as words, lists or Power Point!
The structure of stories more closely reflects our natural thinking states – and when storytelling becomes an intuitive and authentic part of our skill set, it is a powerful persuader, helping shift beliefs and change views. If you would like to learn more and to practise these skills for yourself, join us on our open storytelling workshop below or contact us about story coaching or in-house team support.
Read more or book a place on our next open workshop – Present like a Storyteller – central London.
If you can’t make this date or would prefer to hold an in-house session or programme of change, please email us from here.
- Take a moment to re-live a time when you were successfully influenced by a friend or colleague
- Step back into your experience and notice what was happening for you and what you felt about that person.
- What do you learn that changes how you might now influence others?
Typically when we ask groups how they ‘influence’ and how they ‘are influenced’ – the answers are very different.