During a recent workshop I asked sales leaders to prepare a quick "elevator speech" that explains the compelling reasons for their strategic imperatives. Overwhelmingly, the individuals laid out the facts and figures that supported their reasoning. While technically correct, most of these speakers lack something. While they identified the key business drivers, and logically laid out the reasons for change, they did not connect to the emotional reasons for change.
In addition to identifying the financial and market drivers behind an initiative, leaders also need to connect to the values behind the change and communicate these values to the organization in addition to just providing pure financial numbers and facts figures. While they support the reason for change, facts and figures by themselves are also boring. They show the logic behind the change while values and vision communicate on the emotional level. They motivate and inspire people to change.
There is a real need for leaders to create a vision for change, not just providing the bottom line numbers that are driving change. In talking about vision, Kotter states that "… the real power of vision is unleashed only when most of those involved in an enterprise or activity have a common understanding of its goal and direction. That shared sense of desirability can help motivate and Coordinate the kinds of actions that create transformations "Kotter, 1996, p. 85).
The same is true in communicating the link project and value to the team. This is the opportunity the leader has to remind the team of the purpose of the project, what it means to the team and to the individuals. This type of communication has potential to help ensure that during a change initiative there is not a steep drop in performance by motivating the team behind the project.
Kotter also points out that one of the most common mistakes by change leaders is not communicating enough about the change. He tells us that "Without reliable communication, and a lot of it, employee's hearts and minds are never captured" (Kotter, 1996, p. 9).
Most leaders underestimate the amount of communication needed. They feel that giving a resounding kick-off to a project is enough. For this reason Kotter feels that leaders actually "under communicate by a factor of ten, or one hundred or even one thousand" (Kotter, 1996, p. 9).
If teams are to understand the importance of the change project, the manager must communicate the project and keep it front in the minds and hearts of their employees. This means not just communicating once, but constantly reminding and updating the team about the project and how the team is doing. It also means linking these messages to a vision and core values that resonate with the team.
Communication can not be seen as a one off. Indeed, it is likely when the communications stop and the focus shifts to other projects that the team interprets that the change project is over and they can focus their attention elsewhere. Articulating a vision, linked to values and communicating about the process continues through an initiative and is strengthened if communication about the process are more frequent than not.
Leaders should remember as they articulate their message to their teams, that it is not important that they have all the answers. Leaders are part of the change effort just like everyone else in the organization. They may not have all the answers, and it is OK to admit it. They may need to learn as the team moves forward, just like the team members. More important than knowing all of the answers, with all of the supporting facts and figures is that leaders provide a vision of the project linked to a team value, and plan a way to communicate it to the team, effectively and often. As Gary Yukl points out, "It is necessary to attend an elaborate plan with detailed action steps." The leader should not pretend to know all the answers about how to achieve the vision, but instead should inform followers that they will have a vital role. In discovering what specific actions are necessary "(Yukl, 2006, p. 275).
It is important that the leader engages the team in a way that motivates them and inspires them to move forward. Too often, leaders think facts and figures will do this. Unfortunately, facts and figures alone will rarely motivate and inspire change. In order to truly motivate action, leaders must first examine the values of the team and the vision of where they want to go and find ways to communicate these visions and values often in order to help drive the team forward.