This subject has interested me for some years.
As a change manager and a father of two I am constantly surprised by the difficulty we have in communicating effectively.
If I had a pound / dollar for every time a senior manager said “I cannot understand why my staff are not wholeheartedly embracing my changes” I would be a richer man.
Here are some techniques that have helped me as a change leader, (but I have not necessarily always stuck to, because THIS IS REALLY HARD stuff):
- START BY LISTENING. Let the person or group you are communicating with have their say first. Be supportive and show that you have heard them and will act if necessary. This gives them a chance to clear their minds of their own agenda and then they are able to listen to you.
- Make sure the listener is READY TO HEAR, are they mentally in a place to absorb what you are communicating? Fear of change, anxiety for their project / team and work overload are typical indicators to look out for. If these exist at the time of the communication, then assume that those listening will not hear.
- Keep it simple. Communicate ONE IDEA AT A TIME. As soon as we communicate a new idea recipients start to process the implications. This fills their heads with their own dialogue. – Not a great time to introduce another new idea. This takes patience and some bravery (when will you get another chance to communicate?)
- REPEAT YOURSELF, lots of times, in different formats. A simple message repeated at every opportunity works well. Team briefings, company wide emails, intranet, blogs, wiki’s, notice boards, email footers, etc. In fact anywhere you can repeat the message is useful – so long as you are consistent and simple.
- KEEP REPEATING the message until you hear that “so and so” has had a similar idea. At that point start supporting their idea. (It is no longer yours).
Repeating myself is a technique that I use a lot. Some staff get the message straight away, others take longer, some never really understand. When you are really bored with repeating yourself, don’t stop, keep it up until…..
…..you see team members explaining to each other in their own words.
Now you know that you have communicated.
In short, communicate, less, more. Plant a seed then support and steer any conversations that make it grow.
This weeks inspiration – Count Arthur Strong’s Radio Show.
“Confused? You need to listen more closely, particularly to what I said second.”