One tip for leaders trying to communicate organizational change

What most leaders overlook in their internal communication strategies

Leaders need to be able to communicate new changes across their organizations.

Yet communication is consistently more complicated and also more intuitive than many believe.

Last week, I worked with a senior leadership team who were strategizing how to deliver an update to their multi-state workforce.

Very quickly—almost without thinking—the group formed a consensus around the idea that the marketing team would prepare an internal communication document. It’d look good, be on-brand, and contain several ways of saying the same thing like bullets, slides, handouts, etc.

This is a great idea.

But this group’s rush to conclusions about the communication medium overlooked an essential pre-requisite to organizational communication: meaningful translation.

Without meaningful translation, your message will be overlooked

The modern worker has unprecedented and overwhelming amounts of information.

Most of the time, they can’t take in any more information than they already have.

So your communications need to outline exactly what they mean for each and every person in your organization.

We don’t need information. We need to know why that information matters.

How to translate your communication in a meaningful way.

How does this happen?

Not from the slick messages from the Comms team, as good as those may be.

Getting buy-in for new policies or organizational changes requires a direct conversation with the people the change will affect.

Here’s what that conversation looks like:

  1. A leader at any level takes in the new policy or decision and thinks about how and why it matters to the people for whom it matters. How will this affect their day-to-day? What extra value does this decision add to them, directly or indirectly?
  2. After thinking about what this change means, the leader shares it with the context and color they discerned about what it means to their people.
  3. Then, this leader pauses to create space for people to respond and ask questions. This relational exchange is crucial for people to integrate change by creating meaning.

It seems so easy, but time and time again I see leaders fall into a style of straight, top-down communication. They think, “I know this new thing, and everyone will follow me now.” But that’s not realistic.

In our modern area of fast-paced, highly-virtualized work, it’s tempting to let broadcasts and posts speak for themselves. But successful change management uses the power of human relationships to integrate and shape change.

These relational conversations don’t need to be lengthy, formal, or complex. But when they happen, changes can be implemented more swiftly with less resistance, every single time.

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