December 8, 2021
Talking with Your Team About Change
Written by: David Grossman
Whatever your level or tenure in an organization, when you lead others, you’ll be the first person they’ll want to hear from in times of change. In addition to managing day-to-day priorities and motivating your team, you have an important role in explaining the vision and reasons for a change, giving employees line of sight to the organization’s strategy and helping them understand how the change will affect them.
The amount and type of communication needed will depend on the extent and timing of the change. Often there will be a high-level organizational announcement of what is changing and why, outlining plans and timing for key milestones in the process. The rollout of the plan typically involves sharing more information on what’s changing for specific teams, including training opportunities and details relevant to each role.
Help Build Understanding and Support for Change
As a leader you will likely receive updates before your team members and be looked to as a resource for them. Consider these ways you can help employees understand and support a change.
- Know your employees and their needs:
Put yourself in your employees’ shoes, imagining what’s on their minds and questions they have so you can best connect with them. When you have the opportunity, get answers from leadership to the questions you expect to receive so you are ready to provide the answers to your team.
- Frame the context and make information relevant:
Begin with the why and then the what; connect the dots for employees so you can bring them along on the journey. If plans are in development or evolving, let them know that information will be shared as soon as it is available.
- Communicate regularly:
Recognize that any change requires ongoing communication, not just a one-time announcement. Plan time to talk about changes and employee questions at your regular meetings or huddles. Supplement your typical communications cadence with additional opportunities for connection and listening. Follow up on key topics and questions by seeking out more information from your leaders and sharing it with the team when appropriate.
- Talk candidly about what's happening:
Don’t feel pressured to have all the information or answers your people may be looking for, especially at a time when plans are evolving and details are yet to be worked out. Be transparent about where things stand and proactively share what you know, when you know it, and what you’re working on figuring out.
- Show empathy:
Be yourself. When you communicate, acknowledge the challenges people are facing and the areas that are most difficult for them. Be responsive and show concern for their situation. Share information relevant to their day-to-day work that people can connect with, digest and act upon.
- Be ready to answer questions:
Prepare for the likely and tough questions by asking them of your leadership so they can provide direction on how to answer. Be open to saying, “I don’t know,” and “I’ll find out.” Then, follow up as needed to close the loop on those questions.
Which of these areas do you feel is most important to your team members?
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Tag(s): Internal Communication, Change Management
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