Many books have been written about change management and rightly so, it is a complex topic and we are only scratching the surface with this article. A major cornerstone assumption of leadership is that leaders have the ability to effectively communicate. When we use the word communicate, we are referring not only to the words one uses to transfer factual information to others, but also to other “messages” that are sent and received.
What might these other messages be? Related to change the leader sends a good number of messages. These are listed below.
The leader communicates:
- A sense of confidence and control (or lack thereof) to employees.
- His or her own feelings about the change.
- The degree to which he/she trusts the abilities of the employees to get through the change.
- A sense of purpose and commitment (or lack thereof).
- The degree to which he/she accepts the reactions and feelings of employees.
- Expectations regarding behaviour that is seen as appropriate or inappropriate (i.e. Rumour-mongering, back-room meetings).
- The degree to which he/she is “connected to” employees situations and feelings or is “in-touch” with them.
It is clear that if the leader communicates effectively, he or she will be sending messages that decrease resistance, and encourage moving through the change more effectively and positively. The bottom line with all of this is if you screw up communicating with employees, even the smallest changes can result in ugly problems. Through words, actions, body language, voice tone, and other processes you send many messages about yourself, the changes, and your organization. This constitutes precisely one-half of the communication process. The second half consists of verifying that the message you intended to send was actually received and interpreted the way you intended. The only way that you can be sure you have created understanding is to listen to the people you are communicating with, and make special effort to encourage them to reflect back to you what they have heard (and what they make of it).