Leadership has as its own corner stone, the ability to communicate. When we use the word communicate, we are referring not only to the words one uses to transfer factual information to others, but also to other “messages” that are sent and received.
What might these other messages be? Related to changes the leader sends a good number of messages. These are listed bellow:
The leader communicates:
- A sense of confidence and control (or lack thereof) to employees.
- His or her own feelings about the change.
- The degree to which he/she trusts the ability of the employees to get through the change.
- A sense of purpose and commitment (or lack thereof).
- The degree to which he/she accepts the reactions and feelings of employees.
- Exceptions regarding behavior that is seen as appropriate or inappropriate (i.e. rumor-mongering, back-room meetings).
- The degree to which he/she is “connected to” employees situations and feelings or is “in-touch” with them.
It is clear that if the leader communicates effectively, he or she will be sending messages that decrease resistance, and encourage moving through the change more effectively and positively. The bottom line with all of this is if you screw up communicating with employees, even the smallest change can result in ugly problems. As a change leader, communication is your primary and most important tool. We have attempted to outline some of the important parts of the communication process, but short of writing an entire book on the subject, it is difficult to discuss all the subtleties and issues about human communication.
There is no substitute for good judgment, and change leaders need to be reflective and thoughtful about the ways they communicate. There is also no substitute for listening, and receiving feedback from your staff and colleagues about how you communicate. You may make communication mistakes, but the mark of an effective change leader is that these mistakes are quickly identified through feedback and discussion, and corrective action is taken.