Do you communicate?

Photo of a woman listening through a tin-can "phone"

Once upon a time, I met a business consultant who told me she never advises her clients to communicate about change.

“Just do the change,” she said.

After picking my jaw up off the floor, I excused myself and went to talk with someone else.

Not letting people know about what’s coming and why – it is, as I’m sure you’re aware, the one thing most likely to torpedo your change initiative before it even begins.

But let’s talk about that word “communicate.” It has implications you may not be aware of, as most communication is top down. Leaders decide that a change is needed; they choose the goal; they sketch out the plan; and they Announce It.

That’s not really communication, but at that point they believe they’ve communicated.

In reality, they’ve told. And maybe they’ve told well enough that everyone actually does understand the what and why.

But to be real and effective, communication needs to be multi-directional, not just top-down.

You need to have conversations.

Because that’s when you learn. That’s when you discover what people think – and it’s when you hear input that can make your change better and more likely to be successful. It’s when you find out what worries people about the change, so you can ease their concerns and help them become enthusiastic – instead of resistant.

It’s easy to think that having conversations (instead of top-down communication) is a waste of time. After all, you’re the leader; you know what’s needed. You know why this change is a good thing. And frankly, you’re probably tired of discussing it and ready to move on to the next important thing on your plate.

Plus, I’ve often pointed out that the Curse of Knowledge applies to change initiatives: the leaders know all about it, and therefore struggle to explain it – and fail to listen to what people are saying, people who may have that essential different perspective that allows them to see the gaps and risks.

Multi-directional conversations enable progress, commitment to the change, and – almost always – improvements to the change.

Have you taken the Leadership Communication Assessment? Just nine questions, and you’ll get a detailed report on your skill at communicating change.
Ready to learn more? Curious about what’s possible, and how to make all this work? Drop me a note through my contact form and we’ll set a time to talk.