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Communication during change is one of the biggest pitfalls of leadership. Leadership coach Vera Ng’oma offers tips on how to take your team with you through changing times and priorities.

Image Communication during change is one of the biggest pitfalls of leadership as it tends to happen poorly or not at all. Leadership coach Vera Ng’oma offers some tips on how to take your team with you through changing times and priorities

Leadership involves doing whatever will get things to a better place, which automatically means that there’s never really a status quo. Unfortunately, managing change effectively is one of the areas that leaders struggle to get the thumbs up from teams. What should be a change for good ends up causing unnecessary pain and frustration.

Communication during change is one of the biggest pitfalls of leaders as it tends to happen poorly or not at all. Communication should never be left to chance or squeezed into a short timeframe as it damages trust. Your ability to create and deliver clear, persuasive, high quality communications is a critical skill for building credibility with your team and other relevant audiences and for getting your messages across.

See change through employees’ eyes

Many leaders also tend to define change from their own standpoint without enough consideration given to what this means for employees and not surprisingly, where staff feel communication has been botched, you give them no reason to care. It’s important to do what it takes to get them to be personally motivated to engage.

The reason for a particular change being undertaken or proposed needs to be clearly stated, ideally be for high level organizational or business impact purposes, and the case made if all audiences are to engage. Change that is done because “the leader says so’’ falls flat in the long run as it does not have the ownership it needs to succeed.

Lead but don’t go it alone

Build the relationship you need with your team so that when change has to be implemented, even if they don’t understand the full reason or justification, they’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Your communications should start from where they are, not where you are, and their views sought. Have good sources of information so that you can make your communication as robust as possible with all the different staff because change affects different people differently.

It’s vitally important that you talk to people at all levels in your organization so that you understand what their concerns are and what it would take to get them to appreciate why changes being proposed are necessary or will add value. Don’t work out all the elements of the change yourself. Concentrate on the strategic case for the change and involve your team in how to implement it so that it’s rooted in reality and gains your team’s commitment.

Many leaders tend to define change from their own standpoint without enough consideration given to what this means for employees and not surprisingly... you give them no reason to care.

Avoid sudden announcements of change

Change or any form of disruption should never feel like a bolt out of nowhere, otherwise you’ll struggle to get it off the ground. The change process should involve regular honest and critical conversations with your team and not “done to them’’. Let your managers and direct reports know that you’ll be talking to their teams and involve them in these conversations. When leading change, don’t just go with third party sources.

It’s important that you have access to information that is not filtered. Listen and learn. Find out from staff what the team or organization should be doing better or differently, what it should start or stop doing and what they would like to see you do differently. Avoid the kind of behaviour many leaders exhibit during change which gives the impression they have a right to implement change wherever it seems due.

Actively seek input

Don’t run a top down operation. Promote a culture of ‘’we are in this together’’ as a leadership approach so that it’ll not feel like an uphill task during times of change. Justifying your actions and decisions will help with building trust.

See change as everybody’s business and that means that involves all -not just you making the decision and telling others what’s going to happen. No matter how high level or strategic a decision on change is, seek opportunities for engaging with the broader team to develop understanding and get contributions in whatever way may be relevant.

If people have not participated in your thinking, even when you explain, especially after you’ve already made the decision, the process will most likely be seen as yours to implement which will put you on the back foot. Bring people in early to build enthusiasm, ownership and momentum for implementing change or new initiatives.

Resource the change

Sometimes leaders start a change process which takes staff through a difficult emotional time only to leave the change to drift. Think through the change not just the start and work out a plan with your team. Commit resources to the change and create systems that will sustain the change and the benefits it yields.

Keep lines of communications open so that you have the benefit of ongoing input and thinking from your team. Give your team permission to do what has most value to bed down the change and capture lessons.

Agree with them measures and milestones for assessing how the change is going and what will be classified as success. Phase the change with short, mid and long-term measures - especially if it’s a big change initiative, so that people don’t abandon their day jobs to focus solely on it to the detriment of important existing assignments.

Vera Ng’oma is a Leadership, Career and Personal development expert and author of six books. She is CEO of ExcellicaGroup, an outfit that helps individuals and organizations to maximize their highest potential through cultivating deliberate excellence, intentional leadership, and prolific performance.Contact: verangoma@gmail.com or vera@excellicaleadershipgroup.com

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