How to Talk About Change
I find it curious that people ask me if I work with “change management”.
I used to reply “no,” then I realized I was wrong, wrong wrong.
Change is omnipresent and that’s the reason people hire me as a coach or invest in a communication skills workshop…in case you were wondering!
The truth is we all want change. We are wired for change.
The thing is, we want the change that we want (fresh coffee, more $, and most especially, carbs). We do NOT want change that we don’t consent to. Especially if it is not our idea.
Back in the late Middle Ages, pilgrimages were popular. One option for this was in Spain. The most common path for El Camino de Santiago (or the Way of St. James) started at Saint Jean Pied de Port, France, and over 500 miles went through four of Spain’s 15 regions, ending at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.
This was not a leisurely touristic experience.
People walking these 500 miles wanted some sort of change in their lives. This pilgrimage was thought to win over heavenly prayers and supplication from one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, Saint James.
The point is that people then (and now) want change. Millions of people are still making pilgrimages.
What we don’t want is other people telling us how or what to change.
That means that communicating change is not only explaining what the change is, it’s selling it.
Thus Mixonian Institute exists. These are the most common types of change our workshops address are:
:: Leadership roles and directions
:: Upgrading client perceptions
:: Adopting new technology
:: Organizational growth
:: More women in senior leadership
How to communicate change
Just like with any flavor of persuasion, it’s a matter of relating the change to the priorities of the audience, in the right way.
First, be a true believer.
Spell out the threat or opportunity facing the business that is prompting the change. Some threats may be obvious (higher costs, excessive debt, price declines), while others less clear (lack of capital, advancing automation, government policy change, a growth aspiration).
Be able to clearly articulate one to three reasons for the change.
Champion the underlying opportunity.
It helps to see this change, this eventual transformation, as a higher level of performance, not a project to be managed.
The methods and behaviors that brought the company to its current state are not going to move you forward. That’s true for individuals and organizations.
This change is an opportunity for professional growth in terms of communication and leadership skills, learning new technologies and adopting more powerful mindsets.
Change keeps human brains agile.
Set aspirational expectations.
Communicate your ambition for your people. Emotions fuel tenacity and your emotion, as the leader, needs to be one of extreme encouragement.
Employee resistance to change may reflect a history of low expectations. Time to change THAT.
If you’re a true believer in the change, a champion of the opportunity, and a disciple of setting firm aspirational expectations, you should expect buy-in, advocacy, and a positive transformation.