Managing by Announcements – How NOT to Lead Change

I recently facilitated a discovery call with one of my sales partners and a new client. We asked our contacts, directors in a medium-sized service business, about the issues they were facing and what outcomes they’d love from the proposed initiative.

We learned how market changes now require very different behaviors from company staff. The old ways of doing business will no longer satisfy customers or generate the profits they once did. Players who have been in roles for years must drop old skill sets and scramble for new skills. Many are frustrated with their lack of knowledge, their lack of traction, and their feeling of incompetence in this new environment.

My sales colleague and I dug deeper. I asked how senior leaders viewed the required changes and how they viewed these struggling employees. Our contacts said about half of the senior leadership team “get it.” They understand the need to change their business model, culture, and approach. The other half truly don’t understand what the problem is.

I learned that their CEO is in the camp of “don’t get it.” (That’s never a good sign!) The CEO has told all staff, through a series of memos and announcements at staff meetings, that their business model has changed and staff need to embrace this new approach. The CEO is “shocked and appalled” that the staff are not doing what he has told them to do.

<sigh>

This CEO and these leaders have made a common mistake: “Managing by Announcements.” Leaders with this mindset believe the podium is their most important tool to “lead and influence others.” The reality is that announcing a change is step one – many other supportive steps and modeling must follow for the desired change to gain traction in the work environment.

Great Bosses Announce, Model, and Hold Accountable

Here is what effective change leaders do to ensure the change takes hold and the work culture evolves to embrace desired new behaviors:

  1. First, clearly state the new expectations. (A podium may be involved in this step!) Describe the context for the change by making the business case. Explain what has happened that leads the senior leadership team to ask the organization to make this shift?
    Then define the new reality by describing the new business model and required behaviors. Use real business examples to embed the model in team members’ minds and hearts.
    Use the “3rd Grade Teacher” approach – tell them, tell them, tell them. Over and over. Use multiple and differing marketing strategies to help staff keep their eye on the new model and revised behaviors expected of them.
  2. Second, demonstrate defined new behaviors to reinforce the change. Senior leaders must champion the new approach by modeling desired behaviors, FIRST and consistently. Demonstrating desired new behaviors creates credibility for both the leader and the change.
    Share difficulties you encounter and frustrations you experience (trust me, you will stumble as you are learning) and express gratitude for their efforts to model the new way.
    Engage staff in this journey. Listen to their suggestions and frustrations, all while focusing effort on embracing the new required model.
  3. Finally, hold staff equally accountable for consistent demonstration of desired behaviors. Regularly praise and encourage demonstration of desired behaviors. Celebrate small wins! Redirect and coach staff who are not embracing the new approach. With staff who are unable to make the shift, find roles where their skills serve the new model. If no suitable roles are available, you must lovingly “set them free.” Keep only the talent that can support and embrace the desired change.

How can Blanchard help you manage your desired change most effectively?


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