Successfully communicating change across a business requires leaders and managers to play an active role. Close to employees and highly visible within their organisations, they have a unique platform to disseminate messages. And yet, IC leaders have told us that managers and leaders are often unsure about their role in communicating change – and can be hesitant to engage in it.
With change more constant, complex and challenging than ever before, it has never been more important for comms leaders to have the support of their leaders and managers. That’s why we convened a closed-door roundtable last week, to give comms leaders the opportunity to compare notes, share best practices and problem-solve collectively. Below, we’ve included a rundown of the day’s discussions.
Framing the challenge
Comms leaders agree that when it comes to change comms, leaders and managers are often unclear about their role in the process. While they might be confident in their leadership positions, they aren’t as comfortable communicating. This can result from a lack of understanding about their organisation’s change journey.
Comms leaders noted, for example, that it is typically managers who sit in the middle of the organisation who lack clarity and feel a sense of disconnect. This is especially prevalent in large organisations where managers are spread across different regions and offices. There is also the ongoing problem of leaders and managers being time-poor, which makes communication – and developing skills in it – an added task for their already crowded to-do lists.
Leaders are comfortable in their role as leaders, but they don’t understand their role as communicators.
Exploring the solutions
Comms professionals know the pressure leaders and managers are under – and want to support them to embrace their roles as change agents. They know that empowering leaders and managers will not only facilitate the change process but the wider employee experience. They discussed some of the strategies they are deploying in their own businesses.
Meet them where they are:
Comms leaders stressed the importance of spending time with leaders and managers – to understand the context in which they work. Without doing so, it is hard to determine the tools that best serve them. After all, desk-based leaders at the head office will require different support from the managers on the factory floor.
You’ve got to go into the field to meet your leaders where they physically are.
Ask leaders and managers for their views:
Only by hearing from them can businesses truly understand their challenges and create effective strategies to support them. This can be done by conducting events, interviews and focus groups, or polling and surveys. As participants noted, leaders’ and managers’ needs have changed drastically in the last five years, with communicating negative news, building diverse and inclusive teams and fostering trust in remote teams among today’s top challenges.
Creating a sense of ownership:
Ultimately, leaders and managers need to feel that they are part of the change process in order to engage with it actively. One participant noted that it’s about inspiring and empowering leaders and managers to act.
We need managers to feel inspired and part of something. But how do you make them believe?
Some businesses, with adequate resources and budgets, have created special coaching programmes for leaders and managers. Whilst often significant work for IC teams, dedicated training enables them to provide hands-on support to existing – and new – managers, especially during big business transformation.
Creating coalitions of willing
Our roundtable highlighted the strong commitment comms leaders have to better engage managers and leaders in the comms change process. But as much as they can do; they can’t – and shouldn’t – do it alone. Working with managers and leaders, and managing change programmes, is not the sole responsibility of comms teams. For it to work, comms teams need buy-in from other business units, especially HR, training and development and business transformation. As one leader noted, it’s about creating “coalitions of willing.”
Delve deeper with our new change comms training course
Engaging leaders and managers in the change process is a key part of our brand-new change comms training course. Informed by interviews with 50 comms leaders Navigating successful change communication today can help your team update and refresh its change comms tactics for today’s supercharged change environment. To find out how you can enrol your team, get in touch.