Communication: An Integral Part of Change Management Jan 24, 2019 Consider how important communication is, whatever your need for change. Whether you are streamlining processes, searching for ways to boost quality, or strategizing to increase market share or develop new products or services, you will need to get it done through and with other people. This means that communication will be integral to your plans. Extraordinary communication is required from senior leadership and it must be deliberately thought through and managed. Toward bringing about change with the help of communication, you need to create a culture of open communication, cultivate relationships with key managers within your organization, and develop your staff’s communication competency. Let’s look at each of these. Create a Culture of Open Communication An open communication culture goes beyond an “open door” policy. It entails establishing a collegial environment in which employees feel comfortable approaching the boss. They also have to feel at ease with their peers who observe them talking to management. Such a collaborative environment supercharges the organization. It can be the kind of environment in which project managers will be able to influence, or persuade, colleagues to help them implement organizational initiatives—with the help of senior management. Project managers can encounter resistance when they ask colleagues to take time away from their “real job” to help out. Consequently, it is imperative that senior leadership make it clear from the get-go that all hands are expected to contribute to critical initiatives when asked. Senior executives not only need to do this but they need to ensure the message gets delivered to all who need to hear it. Cultivate Relationships Relationships get things done. People who feel respected and appreciated will work doggedly to achieve results. They will feel free to take risks associated with major strategic change.. Develop Six Communication Competencies Communication doesn’t just happen. It requires learning simple tools and techniques and blending relationships with process steps. Critical management functions—setting expectations when officially and unofficially delegating, giving conversational feedback on a regular basis, and coaching for optimum performance—depend on top-flight communication skills. Again, it all depends on senior leadership. 1. Decide to be both a champion of communication and a champion communicator. Use that decision as a compass to regain footing when today’s high-pressure workplace tempts you to accept poor or no communication. When you think there is no time to listen or clarify understanding, remember that there is always time for rework no matter how fast-paced the environment. Clear communication does not take much time, and it prevents expensive mistakes due to miscommunications. 2. Use your body language to project a confident yet friendly and consistent communication style. Many studies have shown that people assign more credibility to body language, facial expressions, and the tone and pitch of a speaker’s voice than they do to the actual spoken words. When these communication elements are misaligned, the body language and tone can turn off listeners’ ability to think. Listeners may misinterpret what the speaker meant or may understand quite correctly that the speaker is disappointed or angry. This can fuel further emotion and detour progress on the actual work issue. 3. Set turbo-charged expectations and ensure that all managers in the organization take time to clarify. Everyone should have a clear understanding of their role and level of authority on each task. Can they make a decision and report on it? Or is it a recommendation? 4. Don’t allow judgments to be made based on gossip or anger. If a problem occurs, use questions to get to the root cause of the problem so it can be solved. Show that you value your people’s insights. Drill down on what you saw and heard and how it impacts the expected performance and come up with a fair conclusion. 5. Sharpen listening skills to hone in on people’s meaning in conversations. Most people unintentionally load up their messages with subtext based on their work and life experiences. This is true when most people speak as well as when they listen. We make assumptions. Paraphrasing and asking questions can help clarify what a person intended to say. Not interrupting gives them time to express their thoughts. Listening shows respect and courtesy, thus leading to trusting relationships. 6. Give specific and regular feedback on work progress. Lead a collaborative conversation. When people perform at or above your expectations, reinforce their performance with positive feedback so they know what performance to repeat. Remember that management’s job is to help people succeed. Immediate, collaborative conversations when an employee veers off track can correctly redirect the individual. When senior leadership makes communication an important value, a shift will take place throughout the organization. Strategy execution will grow as the organization as a whole understands what is critical to the company’s success. As a leader, you need to begin by breaking down communication issues into small bites. Choose positive words and phrases. Resolve uncomfortable situations. Avert crises. Excel at communication and attract people to the work. Be the leader your organization wants to work with because of your own communication skills and help to improve communication throughout your organization by providing the training your staff needs to perfect its communication and build strong relationships.