Think You’re Communicating Enough? Think Again


Good communication is critical to making a big change take hold in any organization, especially in complex enterprises. Most managers and leaders recognize this, but it’s difficult to put into practice. Gaining an understanding of and commitment to a new direction is a challenging intellectual and emotional task. It unnerves people, and as a result, they often under communicate and send inconsistent messages about the change, both of which lead directly to stalled transformation efforts.

Most companies under communicate their visions for change by at least a factor of 10. A single memo announcing a big new change is never enough, nor is even a series of speeches by the CEO and the executive team. To understand how a change vision can easily get lost in the clutter, consider this:

The total amount of communication going to an employee in three months: 2.3 million words or numbers.
Typical communication about the change over a period of three months (the equivalent of one 30-minute speech, an hour-long meeting, one 600 word article in the company’s internal newsletter, and one 2,000 word memo) = 13,400 words or numbers.
13,400/2,300,000 = .0058, which means the change vision has captured only 0.58 percent of the communication market share.
How can you avoid this? First and most importantly, leaders in the organization – usually the CEO and senior level executives – need to “walk the talk” and become living examples of the new corporate culture that the vision aspires to. Nothing undermines a communication program more quickly than inconsistent actions by leadership, and nothing speaks as powerfully as someone who is backing up their words with behavior. When an entire team of senior management starts behaving differently and embodies the change they want to see, it sends a powerful message to the entire organization. These actions increase motivation, inspire confidence, and decrease cynicism. Tactically, a vision for change must be communicated in hour-by-hour activities, anywhere and everywhere – the vision must be referred to in emails, meetings, presentations, company newsletters, and internal training programs. Finally, keep these key elements in mind as you communicate about your change:

Keep your messages simple and jargon-free
Use metaphors and analogies to paint a vivid picture for employees
Repeat, repeat, repeat – ideas only sink in after they’re heard many times
Explain seeming inconsistencies – if you don’t, it undermines credibility
Allow for constant feedback

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