The old adage, “the only constant is change” is no truer than it is today. Things change so quickly. I bet when you think about your position or your business over the past year or two, you could list several changes: different colleagues, different clients, different projects, different duties, different challenges. And when these changes happened, were they communicated to you in advance?
I have lived through several major organization shuffles. One was back in the 1990s (yup, I’ve been around that long ;o) when Canadian airports were being privatized and morphed into airport authorities. It was a scary and uncertain time for many, and thankfully, the Transport Canada bureaucratic leadership understood that.
A big part of implementing the changes was communicating them.
We had an excellent Assistant Deputy Minister whose name was “Victor”. Aptly named, I might add, because he was victorious in building relationships with his team and successfully relating to his group. During this time of great transition, Victor proactively communicated with his clients, the airport users, as well as (and this part is critical …) his own internal people. He sent out written updates, travelled across the country to meet in person and hold town halls, presented at staff gatherings, hosted coffee updates, and offered employees lots of opportunity to ask questions and have them answered. He was a consummate communicator. He told us what we needed to know. We didn’t always like what he had to say; we didn’t even agree with all the decisions. However, we could understand the rationale and see the bigger picture and how it would affect each of us, and therefore, we could plan, we felt included, we understood the “why”, and we could move to action. We felt informed, valued, and part of the changes. A lot of leaders could learn from his example.
Then, several years later, I lived through another organizational transition with completely different results. It was led by a “Chief of Transition”. Unfortunately, this man was no leader at all. He missed the mark on a critical part of leadership — he failed to communicate. In spite of being advised that employees wanted and needed to be provided information, he chose to remain silent. Instead of giving people a heads up, he kept updates to himself, sharing bits and pieces only with his selected few in what was perceived by the masses as his “inner circle”. His approach needlessly bred insecurity, rumors, and great anxiety. It took a number of years and multiple transgressions on his part for his supervisors to eventually encourage him to “retire”. Guess they finally figured out how to communicate too.
To this day, I use these two stories as examples of the importance of communications when managing change. So here’s the question …
… how’s your organization doing when it comes to communicating changes?
Are you advised in advance? Are you advised at all? Besides the changes themselves, are you told the “why”, the rationale behind the changes? Are the changes put forward as permanent or on a “trial and assess” basis? Has someone explained how the changes will affect your daily duties or the service to your clients?
And what about YOU? When you are implementing change in your workplace and your procedures, do you alert those who will be affected? Those who will benefit? Those whose support you need to implement the changes correctly? What could you do to better implement changes in your area?
I was speaking to a project manager recently and was surprised to find that her project plans included everything “operational”, goal-oriented, timeline driven … and had no communication plan. Is that you? Are you forgetting the communication piece? Because if you are, you could be jeopardizing the very success of your initiative.
Giving people a heads up of changes, and the “why” behind the changes, sets the stage for greater acceptance and buy-in. It boosts the chance that your implementation will be a smooth one.
Next time you’re planning a change, think about who needs to know and be sure to communicate them to those people. You, and they, will be glad you did.
Until next time, here’s to …
Better communication, Better business, Better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
©2013 Marion Grobb Finkelstein
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Communication consultant, author, professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein teaches individuals and organizations across Canada how to improve morale, confidence, and productivity by changing how they communicate. Chat with her at www.facebook.com/MarionSpeaks or www.linkedin.com/in/marionspeaks and sign up for her FREE “Marion’s Communication Tips” at www.MarionSpeaks.com
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