Stan was excited! When he realized the latest income trends were down for his company, he did some investigating about where some costs could be cut, and where his company could be more efficient. After considering many options, he had a clear vision for where the company should go. He announced the new changes in procedures for ordering, sales, and production thinking everyone else would be excited too. After all, the changes would make their jobs easier. He was completely unprepared for the fallout after his announcement.
When Stan came to me for help, all he could say was, "What went wrong?"
I love old movies. There is a famous line from the 1967 movie, “Cool Hand Luke,” starring Paul Newman. At one point in the movie, Newman’s character says, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
No matter how much the change makes sense to the leader, to get employees onboard with change, there must be clear communication. Here are the steps Stan and I outlined to help his employees accept and embrace the changes.
1. Honor the past. Stan sat down with all of his employees at department meetings. He apologized after acknowledging that he could have done a better job of preparing them for the upcoming changes. Then he talked about some of the accomplishments they had achieved that had really supported the company’s mission and vision. He asked the employees, “What are you most proud of accomplishing?” He sincerely thanked each of them for making the company better.
2. Explain why. Then Stan explained the trends in income and expenses that prompted the need for change. He shared how the new plans would positively impact the company and, more importantly, the employees. He talked about how he decided on the changes that would be made, including gathering input from those in the room. He thanked them for their valuable input, and encouraged everyone to come to talk to him any time about other ideas that might help their company improve.
3. Explain what. Stan outlined the changes that were to be made. He shared the vision for the company a year from now, and the outcomes he expected. He assured the employees that he would follow closely what was working and what was challenging so that adjustments could be made, if needed. This would be a team effort, and everyone would have a vital and indispensable role to play. Stan was clear about the framework of the change, and promised to continue to hold that future vision in front of them.
4. Explain how. At this point, Stan told them there would be specific changes in processes. He explained how that would affect the particular department he was speaking with, and what training would be provided to help everyone with new procedures. He shared an overview of the mentoring program that would be set up to help each person successfully make the changes. He encouraged them to work together to come up with the best way to incorporate creativity in the process. Stan also said that he and department leaders would provide support to the group and individuals, listening to their feedback. They would look at what is working and what challenges they experienced, address any issues, and work together to be successful during the change.
5. Imprint the image. Stan knew that the more his employees heard the vision and the positive message that they would achieve it, the more they would believe it. He was visible throughout the process in a variety of ways. He communicated the collective progress and found ways to celebrate even the small successes. While the process wasn't easy and there were barriers to overcome, the employees always felt heard and supported. They worked hard to make the changes, and the company has achieved new levels of success.
Create caring communication to build relationships
Through this process, Stan learned the importance of getting to know his employees. He began having lunch with many of them, asking about their hopes and aspirations, what mattered most to them, and pushing them to be their best. He let them know he welcomed their complaints and he worked to improve their situations whenever possible. He discovered the power of encouraging words and being optimistic, confident, and enthusiastic at all times.
Proper planning, strategy and execution can help prevent a breakdown in communication during organizational change. When presented the right way, to the right people, with the right message, through the right communication medium, at the right time, communication can make or break a change initiative.
Communication is the first step in the CHANGE process. In our next blog we will address the "H" in CHANGE: "Harness thoughts".
How have you introduced change successfully among your employees or your team? We would love to hear from you!
If you or your organization needs help navigating change, or growing dynamic leaders, contact Joy Humbarger at Joy@MaximizeYourLeadership.com.