Thoughtful and intentional leadership is essential to successfully guide teams through change. Last week we discussed the importance of creating context and communicating the change when building a Case for Change. An effective Case for Change tells the story of the change, sharing why the change is important and explaining how all the pieces fit together.
Here are a few more elements in outlining a strong case:
Benefits of the change – Describe how successful change will address the issues and challenges you outlined in the context (see last week’s Tip for more on this). Help the listener understand what change success looks like. Paint a picture of the future.
- Remember that data doesn’t have meaning until you make it. Too many change messages contain lots of data that gets lost on the recipient. Without context, content is confusing. So be sure to take the time to clearly share the story behind the data and make meaning.
- When you are sharing the change with others, remember who they are and what matters to them. Speak in their language, not yours. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart” (Nelson Mandela). The language of the heart is the language of change.
- Beware of the Curse of Knowledge – once you know something, it’s hard to remember not knowing it! It’s very easy to assume that everyone else knows what you know. So be aware when you share that being abstract creates more confusion than clarity. Beware of knowledge imbalances, and don’t make assumptions about what others do or do not know.
- Create certainty during uncertainty. The brain CRAVES certainty. Change creates uncertainty, and when your people are uncertain about the future or the change, it significantly impacts productivity. You don’t need to know all the answers, but you do need to create as much certainty as possible for your people regarding what’s next.
- Leading change well means providing milestones along the change journey. Sharing progress creates some certainty and celebrating the good provides necessary reinforcement of the change.
Acknowledge that it won’t be easy – This is an important and often overlooked element of making a Case for Change. When leaders explain that a change is happening and just paint a bright picture of the future, people’s BS alarm goes off because they know that there are challenges ahead. By acknowledging that the change will not be easy, you build credibility and address the inner cynicism. This doesn’t need a lengthy explanation, but it’s essential to express empathy for the people impacted by the change and any inconvenience or loss it involves.
Communication is the lifeblood of relationships. It’s what keeps teams functioning, workers productive and organizations profitable. As a change leader your proactive, consistent, and thoughtful communication is critical.