“There is only one constant in the world and that is change.”
I don’t know who coined that phrase but they deserve some credit for a great line and a fundamental truth. But with change being such a part of our experience, why do we struggle with it so? You might think most adults would be accustomed to change and readily accept it; we don’t.
I’ve encountered my fair share of change in many areas; spiritual/church life, family, work, work, work… yes, work gets a triple dose! In business we must effectively manage change and for leaders that means communicating the need for change to your team.
Over my 30-year (and counting) career, I’ve been to training courses on change management, sat through seminars, and read numerous books, many of which were not so subtle pre-change preparatory activities assigned by various executives in times leading to major change. The training and books were helpful and I’m glad I had the opportunities to learn from them so I recommend others continue those activities.
But through all the change experience, I became aware of four fundamental requirements to effectively communicate change. If one or more of these four elements are missing, hard to understand chapters of the book or late in the day during your seminar, strong resistance to change is eminent.
The small business owner or manager can effectively communicate change without an indoctrination campaign or even without buying everyone a book (not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
Communicating Change Using These 4 Fundamentals
Just apply these four fundamentals to your direct interaction with the people who you need to follow your lead.
- Clearly define the change. Human nature resists uncertainty even under the best of circumstances. You can be handing someone a bag of cash but if they don’t know what’s in the sack, they will resist taking it. Outline to the extent the practical details of the change for affected people. Sometimes circumstances prevent revealing the ideal level of detail, but you need to provide enough information for someone to be comfortable taking that step. “Trust me” works with those that already trust you, but that’s not where the resistance arises.
- Be empathetic; consider the impact to individuals. It’s just simply being considerate of others. I’ve been amazed at times of how inconsiderate we can be in a condition of change. The objective is to have people embrace the change, not prove that you can make them change. By openly discussing your understanding of impact to others, you can build their confidence and trust that they are considered; the opposite of lack of consideration, which is “inconsiderate.” Even if the impact is not favorable, demonstrate you are being “considerate.”
- Provide the benefits and purpose driving the change. The “simple truth” is usually a good place to start. People do not like being manipulated and the senses to detect manipulation are acute in many. Don’t go there without a very good reason. Being open with the reasons that change is necessary and how the environment including the individual can benefit is (a) the right thing to do, and (b) affirms the trust you need for the individual to embrace and support change.
- Ask your team for help. You need individuals to support your leadership for effective change… so ask for it. I’m not sure why this element in change communication is often missing; pride, sign of weakness, uncomfortable asking? As a leader of change, we need to be humble enough to include asking for help and support. Most often in the context of business, the leader of change already has the position authority to implement change. The subject here is effective communication to win support of change. Pray for humility if that’s necessary to offer an honest request for the people you need to follow your lead after you have shared a clear direction, shown you understand how it effects them, outlined the reasons and benefits of change and are now asking for their support.
These four principles of effective communication will serve you well in times of change.
I would love to hear your thoughts on how you help people accept change in your world.