How communicators can guide leaders through change
Change is disconcerting in any scenario but is often intensified in a business setting. Organisational change often involves long periods of ambiguity while decisions are being assessed and plans deliberated.
We know that change is inevitable, so what can we do as communicators? At Spurwing, we believe that preparing leaders is the fundamental step.
Leaders face many unique challenges during times of change. They are responsible for defining the company’s vision, making difficult decisions and driving delivery, but they are often undergoing change themselves.
Communicators are the essential business partner in steering and supporting leaders through change. We can help leaders gain buy-in of their vision, make correct decisions and engage the people who will be responsible for delivering on their plans.
In this post, we share some guiding principles which will help communicators equip leaders with the knowledge and tools to navigate change effectively, and advise them on what to say, when, how and to who. The principles apply to any form of organisational change, whether the drivers are internal – such as structural, commercial or strategic changes – or external – for example, new industry regulations or media scrutiny.
At the top of the pyramid is knowledge. Communicators can help connect leaders to their stakeholders’ feelings, attitudes and responses to change, and can set up formal and informal processes to enable this. We recommend a combination of quantifiable measurements – such as employee surveys, brand metrics and turnover rates – and deep-dive listening exercises to truly understand reactions to change.
Central to effective change communications is what you say, and this is particularly true for leaders. Knowing what to share, what to avoid and how to express these messages can engage or cut off your audiences. During change, we often return to the baseline principles of good communications – defining rationale and context, equipping with facts and tailoring messages to the people you’re talking to.
Communicators should identify opportunities where the leader’s time is best spent. This could involve organising one-off townhall meetings or shareholder briefings, or simply being visible and approachable while in the office. We can also create new avenues to cascade updates, which may not directly involve the leader. Dedicated change management bulletins, messaging packs and online Q&As are some examples of great internal communications.
This element is often overlooked but is vital to secure trust during change as leadership authenticity is widely recognised as an important driver in stakeholder engagement. Communicators can help leaders articulate and demonstrate their values and principles, from both a personal and professional level. Highlighting common cultural beliefs, company values and personal anecdotes helps people connect with the leader and their vision for the future.
Is your organisation experiencing change? Get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org and we can explore how these principles could work for you.