In earlier posts we talked about how to create and tell your change story. Over the next few weeks we’ll take a broader look at communicating your change. In particular, I want to address: one-way communication; two-way communication; enlisting; and aligning words and actions. Each has its place when used effectively, and when used in balance. There are blogs, books, videos, guides, and research articles on all of these topics, so we aren’t going into any of them in depth… I am, however, going to provide a few key points on each one that can make a significant difference in the success of your change journey, whether personal or organizational.
In this week’s post we look at one-way communication. This one can be–and very often is–used way too much.
There is a time and a place for the “rally to the cause speech.” Certainly Martin Luther King knew this, as did President Kennedy when he launched the mission to “land a man on the moon and bring him safely home.” In many ways, each was telling their version of the change story. Perhaps you’ll be telling your story at a town hall meeting for an organizational change. For a personal change, you may do your telling at the dinner table, or gathered together in the living room. And, whether telling the story in a small gathering or large, it is important that you be fully present with your audience, that you interact with them, respond to them and the ways in which they are responding to you, even as you communicate to them.
Most often, one-way communication takes the form of directives. Sometimes they are straight-forward (Get everything on the punch list completed this week), and sometimes they are cloaked in more polite terms (I would really appreciate it if you would get everything on the punch list completed this week). In either case, there is no uncertainty about the expectation: complete the work on the punch list. Directives will often get you compliance; they don’t generally do much in terms of building commitment.
Whether you are the CEO of a Fortune 50, the owner of a small business, or driving your own personal transformational change, there is one critically important time when one-way communication–as a precursor to two-way communication–is essential.
Ultimately, in each of these circumstances, you are the person accountable for the success (or failure) of the change. You have listened to others, reflected on what is in your heart, and have made the decision to move forward. That decision has to be communicated clearly and unequivocally. This isn’t the time for I’ve been thinking about… or I was wondering, what if… It is time for, I have decided…
You may want to keep the door open for discussion on how to execute the change; in fact, this is something I would recommend and we will explore more in the next post. But, once the decision has been made, you don’t want to open it up to question and challenge.
Share you experience with one-way communication during change.