Archive for February, 2019|Monthly archive page

Keeping Communications Clear

This weekend I learned a thing about management communications.

I’ve yet to see an organization that doesn’tt complain about how terrible communication is. If only communications were just one thing! There are (at least) three kinds of management communications. One is just the facts, please communications that say things like The deadline is Thursday and we are meeting at 246 Main St. Someone has to say these things, clearly, and be responsible for getting the word out. Another type is motivational messages. This team is great.  Look at that challenge we just overcame. I’m so proud to be working with you all. They may sound a little corny, but saying these things at the right time matters a lot. Thank you is one of those messages, and I’d love every manager to have a goal to say thank you too much. And last but most complex of all, change management communications.

I’m not going to rewrite a book about change management in the next paragraph but I do want to emphasize that change mangement communications are often about managing people’s negative emotions – distrust, fear of a proposed change, and often, we neglect to admit, actual loss suffered because of a change. Somehow, despite those things, we’re giving them a reason to retain their commitment to the process. As well, change management messages often need to open a space for listening to find out if we’re actually making the right change.

But what I learned this weekend is that these three kinds of communication do not blend well with each other. Specifically, what I saw was a just the facts message with a change management message tacked onto the end. The context made the change management message seem concrete and unilateral, and the pushback of those who felt surprised was sharp and immediate. If the change had been framed in a separate communication, I believe there would have been a better chance of it landing well.

My takeaway is that trying to put more than one of these communication intents into a single message is advanced communications skills, and if not done quite carefully may change the message to have unexpected consequences. Figure out which kind of message you need today, and do them one at a time.