There is no doubt that being a leader is hard! Every once in a while you will have to tell your team some news that will be hard to hear. It doesn’t matter if your business is doing well or not, structural and organisational change is to be expected, and policy changes, reorganisations or acquisitions can have a huge impact on people’s jobs which in turn creates feeling of fear, sadness and anger among employees. Announcements like these can be alarming and can go wrong if they are not properly planned or are poorly delivered. If, however, a leader works on the following key elements, they can be prepared to give the news in ways that will help their team to adjust to the changes as fast as possible.
Plan more time to prepare the content, delivery and follow up – You should plan to hold more than just one initial “all hands” meeting. You should also hold a number of smaller team and one to one conversation as follow ups. It is also important to go to extra effort to make sure you coordinate announcements so that nobody is taken by surprise if the news is announced at different times by individual managers etc. This will save a lot of time and effort down the road. Giving employees a number of different opportunities to absorb and process the news is crucial for complete understanding. Getting information in the right order form the right people is incredibly important in relation to credibility.
Ensure all levels of management can explain the content – Training should be provided to everyone who will need to communicate the message, this could be in the form of rehearsal or role play. You should not assume that everyone has the right instincts. It is possible that to avoid being uncomfortable themselves, they may dump the news or possibly blame management whether this be directly or indirectly.
Explain what is wrong in the organisation and how this change will fix it – Instead of just dropping a disruptive change on employees, you should give them some background relating to what is not working in the organisation and how this new plan is the best way to fix the problem. Emphasise how the business is currently acquiring extra expenses, customers are being negatively affected etc and how this new plan will help to fix these issues.
Personalise the impact and resolution – If you avoid doing this, employees may be confused as to what specifically applies to them or how the organisation is going to help them to cope with the changes. There are a number of different ways to do this, for example when holding small group or one to one meeting, make sure you come prepared with all the details which will allow you to answer personal questions there and then. This will avoid creating more aggravation and anxiety.
Give those impacted as many options as you can – Employees will feel more respected and have more pride and autonomy when they are given choices and all the information required to help them make a decision. It is more likely that employees will come up with more practical ideas the closer they are to the work. It is also important to make sure you don’t assume you know what is best for each individual employee, or what each employee might choose.
Show humility and responsibility – Often, leaders think that they will get a “get out of jail free card” for disrupting peoples lives if they say they are struggling with the disruption themselves. Treating the issue like a shared responsibility can easily backfire and employees can end up feeling manipulated. Instead, in order to show that you are taking the situation very seriously, leaders should say things like “I’m sorry I didn’t anticipate…”.
This type of planned approach will help you get the most out of the organisations good new. It is important to understand that everyone won’t see this as being good news for them personally. It can feel like a waste of time having to plan and work through every detail with your employees, however in the long run it will make the transition smoother and employees will be better prepared. For more information on our leadership coaching click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Kislik, L. (2018) How to Tell Your Team That Organizational Change Is Coming. [Online] https://hbr.org/2018/08/how-to-tell-your-team-that-organizational-change-is-coming?utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin&utm_campaign=hbr
Courtney, F. (2016) 6 steps to effective organizational change management. [Online] https://www.pulselearning.com/blog/6-steps-effective-organizational-change-management/