This week, I was asked during a coaching conversation with an Executive Client, Cynthia, ‘what do I do about the messaging for this situation we are going through?’. She told me there was a lot of inconsistent messages across her organisation which was causing confusion and frustration, and it was reducing trust and confidence in the leadership.
Make no mistake, you are leading a change right now. And one of the most important things that you can do as a leader of change is be ‘on message’.
“The difference between mere management and leadership is communication.” Winston Churchill
During a ‘regular’ change people need to hear and see messaging about the change up to seven times before they retain it and consider taking action. Just consider how many times might it take at the moment?
Prosci research shows people need to hear the key messages about a change from both the most senior person in the organisation and their immediate leader. So every leader within an organisation has a responsibility to those people who work directly for them, to be a messenger and to be ‘on message’.
Your job as a leader of change, particularly in this period of turbulence, is to create trust and certainty. You need to create the opportunity for people to understand the change and to actively participate in it so that you, your team and the organisation can create the best possible outcome from this set of change conditions.
You are the Chief Message Officer
There are two factors for you to consider
- Be ‘on message’ all the time
- Ensure your message is delivered
Different people have different preferences when it comes to taking in information. So delivering a good message but in only one way is not going to reach all of your people. So not only do you need to pay attention to the content of your message, you also need to pay attention to the delivery modes and methods that you’re using to get your message across.
It’s like making the perfect souffle. You not only need all of the right ingredients, you also need to have the right technique.
In order to create a state of activation, where people are enabled to participate in this change, focus on both message content and delivery.
How to be On Message
In terms of message content, you can use the four Ps framework to help you produce a consistent message over time.
The first P is Purpose.
What is the purpose of the change?
What is the purpose of what you’re doing right now?
The second P is Picture.
What is the picture of your destination? Now at the moment, that could be short term. It could be the picture for next week or for the next couple of weeks, rather than the end point of what the new future looks like.
The third P is Pathway.
How are you going to get where you are going? And in the current conditions, it might simply be what is your next step?
The fourth P is Part.
What is the part that you want each person in your team or organisation to play in this change process? So that might include what you want them to focus on and how you want them to behave and show up over the next week or two.
If you use these four Ps, you can generate your message content. You can do this as often as you need. Check in with yourself each week to ensure your message is still relevant. You can also share this with the other leaders in your organisation to ensure a consistency of message.
How to Deliver your message
The second factor to consider is how you deliver your message.
- What are the modes you use?
- What are the channels?
- What is the frequency?
- What conversations are your having?
Don’t limit yourself to a single approach. As well as sharing your message verbally in conversations and meetings, you might need to use email or text or shoot a short video for your intranet. Use a variety of channels so that people have different ways of receiving your message. You will increase the likelihood of them actually being aware of what’s going on and understanding how to participate in the change. How they can contribute in an optimum way right now, because you’ve created a state of activation.
From here, think about crafting your message using the four Ps, and then choosing the channels and frequency of delivery for your message.
Remember, you’re creating trust and certainty that you are going to lead people during this turbulent time.
I’d love to know your thoughts.
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