Communication – How to Make or Break a Change Programme

We all know that everyone has differing responses to change and that these need to be handled sensitively to engage the wider workforce and maintain a healthy level of morale and productivity. And how do we handle change with sensitivity? Through communication of course. Just like everyone has a different response to change, so everyone has very different perspectives on what makes good communication and how they would like to be informed and involved throughout any change process.

Leaders are known for doing one of two things during change; they either keep information as close to their chest as possible, hoping that the less said will ensure the least amount of panic about the unknown and more opportunity to showcase the change when it’s all complete – and expect everyone to just get on with it. Or they shout about the change and the opportunities they bring at the onset, filled with excitement and enthusiasm then fail to communicate the impact the change will have on them as individuals. Unless people can understand and influence the change that they themselves will encounter, it is quite impossible to expect everyone to respond with the same level of optimism.

So how should leaders go about managing and communicating change in their organisation. The first and most important step is to acknowledge that everyone is different and will have different needs. Designing a change and communication programme around these differences will help the majority of people feel involved, valued, with the ability to influence.

I’ve used the Lumina Spark personality profile and the four personality groups to give ideas on how to communicate best with your organisation.

  1. Inspirational Yellow

People in this group are the easy-going abstract thinkers, they like to tackle complexity, welcome change and thrive on coming up with new creative ideas. They are generally demonstrable and sociable, finding working with others energising.

  1. Outcome focused red

The red’s are drawn to taking charge and positions of authority, they are however enthusiastic and generally express positive emotions. Their logical mindset helps them in forming objective and rational opinions which they’re happy to argue about, often with a competitive edge! They’re known for setting ambitious goals and working towards them in a structured and well-planned manner.

  1. Conscientious Blue

The conscientious are the more serious minded individuals who contain their emotions. Disciplined and reliable, they like to take a structured approach to work, drawing on tried and tested methods when delivering activities. Generally a cautious group who resist change at all costs! Often quiet, thinking before they speak, they’ll be the last people to actively contribute in a group.

  1. People Focused Green

The greens can also be serious minded and contain positive emotions. They prefer dealing with people on a one-to-one basis but when they do, they listen attentively, accommodating other’s views wherever possible. They’re collaborative workers and like a win-win outcome in all that they do, working very well in a team. They’re empathetic and in touch with their own and other’s feelings. You’ll find them pretty flexible and easy going, often working in passionate bursts towards goals that emerge informally.

I’m sure you’ve been able to identify a number of your colleagues through reading the above profiles and categorise them with ease. So how do you use this information to structure your communication when change is on the horizon? Here are some tips:

Communicating with Yellow:

Identify elements in your change programme that can be influenced by the inspirational members of your organisation and set up working groups.  By providing the yellows with a platform to shape change will ensure they’re engaged and can champion the change with their teammates. Give them the bigger picture and let them think imaginatively about the elements within the programme that could be created and implemented. Invite them to be champions of change with their team, communicate the company line and engage ideas – remember they’re the positive, sociable lot so if you get them onside you’ll be sure to get a positive vibe flowing through your organisation

Communicating with Red:

Enable the reds to discuss and debate the viability of the ideas the yellows come up with. Create workshops or working groups that allow them to have a voice and influence the outcome – allow them to set the agenda for the workgroups and feedback to a leader/change agent. Give them the facts and sufficient information and allow plenty of opportunities to discuss the change with someone with influence. Create a schedule when they can book an appointment to come in and discuss elements of change. Remember that reds come to things with a rational, often tough approach so expect a lively argument!

Communicating with Blue:

If you’ve created a project plan and distributed it to the organisation, make sure you do what you say you’re going to do, otherwise you’ll lose the trust and engagement of the blues. The conscientious group like to know the detail, they want to understand every element of the plan and scrutinise the evidence to ensure everything stacks up. They want to see that the risks have been considered and proper plans are in place. The blues take time to think before communicating, so give them plenty of opportunity to book in an appointment to discuss the change. They also like to communicate in writing so set up an email account where they can send through their queries, concerns and ideas – and make sure you take time to respond to them with the detail they deserve!

Communication with Green:

Provide opportunities for the greens to book in time with you and discuss their thoughts and feelings about the proposed change. People focused individuals want to know how you’ve taken into account the needs and feelings of others. They’ll want you to show them how the change will have a win-win outcome for everyone and if not, how you’re planning to deal with the fall out sensitively and fairly. They are very in touch with their feelings, so expect to discuss how they feel, ask what they’d like in place to help through the process – follow through with what is reasonable and explain clearly why you may not be able to fulfil all their requirements.

Regardless of personality type, what is consistent for everyone is the need to be treated fairly, to be informed wherever possible and empowered to have some influence over the change that will impact them. Ensuring that you communicate authentically throughout the change process, regularly from start to finish and have outlets for different people to gather, process and share the information is critical to success. what you might think is unimportant may be very important to other people in your organisation, so thinking how each of the four personality types want to be communicated with will help you in structuring your communication plan and change programme.

If you’re looking to launch a change programme or stuck in the middle of an unsuccessful programme, we are here to help! For an informal chat, please get in touch on 0115 8800098 or email penny@pennystrutton.co.uk