During a recent morning commute, I overheard a conversation between what appeared to be two former colleagues. I wasn’t eavesdropping per se, but as their chatter effectively disrupted my usual quiet contemplation of the day past and the day ahead, I lent them an ear. After the usual exchange of pleasantries, they provided some excellent reminders about what’s important for organizations undergoing significant change.
1. Within every larger workplace culture, there are many smaller workplace cultures.
If you want to influence individual groups within the whole, you need to do your homework and find out what matters to each group specifically and help them to understand how their role fits into the bigger picture. Nuances matter (i.e. don’t assume the accounting department is happy with that new electronic-only filing system unless you ask them).
2. Communicate often, both formally and informally.
They discussed a large, all-staff meeting where the delivery of information from certain speakers was far more memorable than what was actually said. How people felt about what was said stuck; not the messages themselves. Integrity and inspiration are essential to formal presentations like these, and in this case, the obvious sales pitch fell flat. If it’s not authentic, it won’t resonate.
Amplifying the message through informal dialogue is also important. People need to know that their ideas are heard and become part of the plan. It bolsters a sense of belonging and ensures that people have a say in determining their own destiny. This leads to engagement and investment in the change, and can turn naysayers to advocates.
3. Don’t underestimate the “contagion effect” of interdependent working groups.
The issues of one team affect others with close, interdependent working relationships even if the impacts are not experienced first-hand. Address emerging issues as they arise and similarly, share the success when milestones are achieved.
4. Expect people to talk publicly about what transpires, whether you want them to or not.
It’s human nature to celebrate and also to gripe. Give them more reasons for the former than the latter so that when the discussions occur in coffee shop lines, at baseball games or on subway trains, a positive narrative is left with bystanders instead of a cautionary tale.