• 10th March 2011 - By proteman

    Communicating during change is important. 

    However, leaders often forget that communication needs to be two-way.  While explaining — over and over and over again — the vision, goals and rationale for change, don’t forget to engage employees by asking them questions.  Asking open-ended questions, then just listening without defending, goes a long way.  It lets employees know that it’s safe to express their concerns and feelings, positive or negative, and that their input is valued.   This is how employees work through and process change.  They need to ask questions, be heard, vent frustrations and become part of the implementation process.

    Below are just a few of the powerful but simple questions leaders ask during times of change.

    • What are you most concerned about, regarding this change?
    • What do you think are going to be the biggest obstacles?
    • What do you want to know?  (Let them know that you’ll answer whatever you can.)
    • How can I help you get through this?
    • What are you hearing from others?  How do they feel about this change?  (It may be easier for some employees to talk about what “others” feel than about they feel.  It’s like saying that a “friend” has a problem and needs advice.)
    • What aren’t we thinking about?  What should we keep in mind?
    • In the past, what has caused other change efforts to fail?  What mistakes have been made?  How can we avoid them this time?
    • What’s going to be the hardest part of this change for us?
    • How will it really impact us day to day?  (Fear of the unknown causes huge anxiety for many people.  Thinking through the actual impact of the changes on their day to day work can help employees feel a sense of control.)
    • What if the organization doesn’t make this change or keeps doing things the same way?  What’s likely to happen?
    • What role do you want to play in helping implement this change in our area?  (Say, “I need your help.”)
    • I know you’re skeptical and I understand why.  Let’s just assume for a moment that this is real and the change is going to stick.  Do you agree that this would be a good change?  What would be the benefits?

    The last question is for your biggest skeptics who refuse to believe that the change is “real”.  The best you can do is take baby steps and change the conversation from negative (“This will never work!”) to positive (“If it DID work, it would be great!”).

    Most important, don’t be afraid of what you might hear and show understanding.  Embrace it.  Thank employees for it.  When they’re telling you their concerns (however uncomfortable it may be for you), they’re doing you a favor.  Surfacing issues and emotions helps prevent them from going “underground” in the organization, which could lead to passive resistance, damaging rumors or outright sabotage of the change.

    © 2011  Phyllis Roteman, The Loyalty Group, Inc. Sherman Oaks, CA
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