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Change Communication Playbook For Leaders & Managers

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Communicating change can feel like a losing game. Employees are eager to know what’s going to happen and how it’s going to affect their jobs. But leaders and managers often lack the skills or the time to help employees understand the scope of the change. Turn your leaders into change communication all-stars by coaching them through a comprehensive plan that explains their roles and sets expectations. The five steps outlined in our “Change Communication Playbook” will give you the framework you need to communicate your message efficiently and have your whole staff playing ball!
To Learn more about how to communicate change effectively in an organization visit

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Change Communication Playbook For Leaders & Managers

  1. 1. Change communicatio n playbook Coach leaders and managers to win 5 all-star steps to succeed at the change game! White paper | September 2013
  2. 2. THE CLOCK IS COUNTING DOWN Getting ready to communicate change is like preparing for the big game. You need to map out your strategy. Make sure your equipment is in order. And train your team, so players know precisely what to do when the pressure is on. The most pivotal roles in change communication, of course, belong to leaders andmanagers: • Leaders act as coaches through a change: They articulate direction, set context (explaining why change is important) and provide motivation, especially when the going gets tough. • Managers are the quarterbacks of change. They huddle with their teammates before the play to discuss what has to be done. And, when strategies don’t go according to plan, managers often call an audible (say what needs to be done now, despite the obstacles). But there are four key reasons why leaders and managers don’t step up to the plate and hit change communication out of thepark: Lead your team to change communication victory with these five steps: 1. Ensure leaders and managers understand the change 4 2. Define communication roles 6 3. Encourage leaders to connect the dots 8 4. Help managers answer questions 10 5. Build communication skills 12 Lack of knowledge Don’t understand the topic well enough to present it, interpret it or answer questions about it Unclear expectations Don’t know that communication is expected of them; that it’s a keyrole No accountability Aren’t held responsible for communicating Insufficient communicatio n skills Aren’t comfortable presenting information, answering questions or responding to concerns 2 Change communication playbook: Coach leaders and managers to win © 2013
  3. 3. Sports radio “If I don’t hear about this change from our leader, itmust not be important.” “The CEO talked about the change months ago, but since then he hasn’t said very much about it.” “The CEO told us about the change, but my VP has not explained how our division is affected.” “I wish my manager would tell me how this change will affect us.” “I ask questions, but my manager doesn’t know very much about the change.” “The CEO said the change was important, but my manager told me not to worry about it, saying it doesn’t have anything to do with our work.” If there were a call-in show about change communication, here’s what employees would say about leaders and managers Your move Despite the obstacles, how do you help leaders and managers get their communication game face on? In this white paper, we’ll provide five key strategies for coaching leaders and managers to be winning change agents. Change communication playbook: Coach leaders and managers to win 3 © 2013
  4. 4. Ensure leaders and managers understand the change Often leaders and managers know what’s changing in their own area, but don’t get the full extent of the organization-wide implications. Make sure they have an opportunity to learn what’s changing, where and when. The best way to do so? Schedule one or more face- to-face sessions hosted by senior management. To ensure a successful session follow these three steps: 1. ftive a pep talk Whether face-to-face or virtual, an important step in preparing leaders and managers to communicate a change is to have senior leaders give a play-by- play of the situation: a snapshot of what’s going on at that moment in time. They should take this time to communicate the details of the change, help leaders and managers see the future in a positive light and inspire them to pull together. 2. Hold a warm- up session Leaders and managers are people, too, so they feel the same anxiety and uncertainty employees do. But they don’t necessarily feel comfortable asking the tough questions in a public setting. Here’s an effective way to encourage questions: After senior leaders give a presentation on thechange, have leaders and managers in the audience break out into small groups to brainstorm questions they think employees would have. Then come back together to give senior team members a chance to answer some of those questions. This exercise levels the playing field by giving participants a way to express their questions and concerns in the guise of representing employees. Training tip Inspire the team by sharing past success During a leader session encourage senior leaders to share their personal experiences with change. Emphasize how success depended on strong leadership, flexibility, teamwork and engaging employees. 4 Change communication playbook: Coach leaders and managers to win 3. Prepare them for the big game You can help leaders and managers kick start conversations with their teams by providing a playbook that outlines “the facts” and ensure that everyone in your company—no matter how far they are from home field—will get the same story. The playbook should contain easy-to-use communication tools like key messages and facts, a PowerPoint® deck and answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). © 2013
  5. 5. Test your skills Round 1 Key messages provide leaders and managers with a “script” to get the conversation started with their teams. True False Check the answer on page 14 GOALLL! Ensure success with the proper change communication equipment Wyeth, a pharmaceutical company (now part of Pfizer), was introducing Springboard, an initiative designed to increase efficiency and speed to market. To ensure the success of this initiative, Wyeth knew it needed to engage its 400 top leaders in understanding and supporting change. Davis & Company designed web meetings to prepare leaders and provided them with toolkits that contained essential information about the initiative. understand the change Change communication playbook: Coach leaders and managers to win 5 © 2013
  6. 6. Position Communication role Why it’s important Senior leader Articulate where the organization is heading, clarify priorities, and share progress and accomplishments Employees look to leaders to provide direction and focus Key leader Interpret the big picture to convey “what it means to us” Abstract high level information becomes concrete and meaningful Manager Define what their employees need to do to help the organization succeed, answer questions and address concerns Dialogue is the most important tool in communication: it allows employees to participate and helps them work through issues Define communication roles Your change efforts are more likely to be successful if leaders and managers are actively involved. While your CEO probably understands his or her role, vice presidents and managers further down in the organization may not see themselves as key players in change communication. Define each player’s position in the change Leaders and managers play different roles during change. So it’s important to understand the distinctions in order to set clear expectations: • Senior leaders include the CEO, direct reports and the top eight to 15 leaders. • Key leaders include VPs, the top 25 to 100 key leaders—one to two levels down from senior leaders, and sometimes directors. • Managers include directors, managers and supervisors—employees who run departments and groups, or supervise individuals. Build players’ confidence Leaders and managers will be at the top of their game if they understand why their position is important. You can set them up for success by explaining their communication role and why their position is crucial to the success of the change. Here’s an example of what we mean: Training tip A checklist will ensure leaders don’t drop the ball To make sure the ball is successfully passed to their team, give leaders a checklist that provides concrete steps they can take to ensure employees understand and act on a change. 6 Change communication playbook: Coach leaders and managers to win © 2013
  7. 7. SLAM DUNK! Helping key leaders become change communication MVPs Aetna, a national leader in health and related benefits, needed to help its key leaders—between the senior executive and direct manager levels—understand their critical role in communication. Davis & Company articulated leaders’ communication roles and responsibilities, and developed a plan for providing leaders with the skills, knowledge, content and tools for fulfilling their role. Test your skills Round 2 Managers’ primary change communication role is to answer the question: A. What’s changing? B. Why are we changing? C. How does this change affect me? Check the answer on page 14 communication roles Change communication playbook: Coach leaders and managers to win 7 © 2013
  8. 8. Encourage leaders to connect the dots Leaders set strategy for the organization. It’s their job to communicate what is changing, what the change will look like and how it aligns with the company’s mission and objectives. To support change adoption, another critical role for leaders is to make sure managers have the right skills and tools to propel their teams to winning performance. ftame-changing tools for leaders • Hold a pre-game “press conference” Use town halls to socialize new changes with team members. Help leaders use time wisely by providing prepared statements that explain the change. Reserve the bulk of the session for interaction such as Q&As and small group discussions. If you use social media in your workplace, apply the same practices to a leader-led jam session. • Training camp When change is significant, invite managers to participate in a change workshop. Run exercises that require managers with different roles to solve business challenges together. Or hold an interactive brainstorming session where managers are asked to contribute ideas and potential solutions to questions, such as: “What can we do to increase our rate of completion from 80% to 100%?”• Whiteboard it! Use the power of visuals to illustrate complex ideas and processes. Equipmeeting and breakout rooms with flip charts and whiteboards to sketch out critical paths. Or create a formal infographic that clearly depicts change objectives and processes from start to finish that can be posted and distributed as a constant reminder of your winning strategies. • Review the stats Use leader/manager meetings to review progress and results. Ensure sessions are purposeful by developing objectives and an agenda so attendees come prepared to present relevant updates and actively participate. Make sure managers know exactly what they need to do when they get back out on the field. • Huddle Don’t wait until the end of the fourth quarter to see if your change initiative is working. Encourage leaders to proactively touch base with managers, such as 10-minute Monday morning check ins with small teams. Training tip Don’t forget about the power of visuals When possible, keep a flip chart nearby or use a room with a whiteboard to illustrate important points and processes. 8 Change communication playbook: Coach leaders and managers to win © 2013
  9. 9. TOUCHDOWN! Helping leaders to communicate key business decisions CIT, a leading provider of financing to small businesses and middle market companies, needed help providing leaders and managers with information to communicate more effectively with employees about key business decisions. Davis & Company created Leader Briefings, a one-page, easy- to-read HTML email to be distributed before a major announcement or event. In a survey to measure effectiveness, the majority of leaders strongly agreed that the publication was relevant, timely, useful and effective. Test your skills Round 3 Huddles are not just for NFL teams. True False Check the answer on page 14 connect the dots Change communication playbook: Coach leaders and managers to win 9 © 2013
  10. 10. Help managers answer questions Every fan knows that the power of sports is more than the match being played right now—we also love the legends, myths and stories of the sport. But sometimes myths can get in the way of winning. For example, when it comes to change, there’s an inaccurate perception that managers communicate by presenting to their teams (like the coach’s thrilling pep talk in the locker room before the final game of the Stanley Cup). In fact, managers spend most of their communication time responding: dealing with issues as they arise, providing guidance in real time and, most important, answering questions. That’s why Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are the most important communication tool you can provide to managers. Managers find FAQs valuable when they are: • Comprehensive. The best FAQs include every possible question an employee would have. (As with goalies, the tougher the question, the better.) • Candid. This is no time for sugarcoating. Managers need the straight story. • Navigable. If the change is significant, organize the FAQs by topic so managers can find what they’re looking for. • Instantly available. Managers don’t want to go hunting through old emails to find FAQs. Make these and other manager communication tools available on an intranet site that, ideally, is accessible Sample questions Here are some questions to consider when drafting FAQs for an upcoming change: • What is changing? • When will change occur? • Who will be impacted? • What do I need to do differently? When? • Why are we changing? • Will jobs be cut? • Are people moving offices or relocating to other cities? • Are any offices/facilities/stores being closed? • Will the reorganization affect our pay? Training tip Think like the most skeptical employee Imagine the toughest, most challenging employee you know. Then draft questions that person would ask and answer as candidly as possible. . 10 Change communication playbook: Coach leaders and managers to win © 2013
  11. 11. HAT TRICK! Creating a manager’s toolkit for a new initiative The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, a supermarket chain also known as A&P, needed to help district and store managers communicate a new initiative to employees. Davis & Company created a toolkit that provided background information about the change, clarified managers’ role and gave them the tools they needed to communicate with their teams during the transition. Test your skills Round 4 Provide FAQs just ahead of the change announcement so managers are ready to respond. True False Check the answer on page 14 answer questions Change communication playbook: Coach leaders and managers to win 11 © 2013
  12. 12. Build communication skills Training tip Encourage managers to participate in webinars Webinars are a convenient and affordable way for managers to enhance their skills and knowledge. If you were a coach, would you send a player onto the field without training them first? Of course not! It’s important to make sure your leaders and managers have the skills they need to talk about change effectively with their teams. Help leaders and managers step up to the plate by giving them the proper training. Focus on skills that will set them up to win Leaders and managers can experience anxiety when they aren’t comfortable talking about a big change or lack the essential communication skills to do so. Help them get rid of “pre-game jitters” by developing these key skills: Interpersonal skills help managers successfully engage, motivate and build relationships with their teams so they can relieve employee change anxiety and get them pumped up for the game. These skills include: • Listening • Delivering key information • Responding to tough questions Collective/team skills allow managers to lead groups and work as a team more effectively, on and off the field. They can facilitate group dialogue about change and rally the team for support by: • Communicating via email and social media • Resolving conflicts • Communicating goals Comprehension skills enable managers to give play by plays about the change and create understanding for their teams. They can translate messages from senior leaders and ensure employees know what they need to do to support it by: • Making information relevant • Communicating persuasively • Coaching Leadership skills help managers hit a home run by setting them up to be active advocates for change. They can support the change by: • Motivating employees • Building consensus • Recognizing their team ftuide managers to the right equipment You don’t need to develop a formal communication training program to prepare your managers to talk about change. Avoid going into extra innings by leveraging existing resources, such as: • Webinars and workshops (check out • Internal development and training courses • Lunch & learns • Professional communication conferences (e.g., IABC, PRSA, etc.) 12 Change communication playbook: Coach leaders and managers to win © 2013
  13. 13. GRAND SLAM! Developing leaders’ communication skills GPU, an energy company (now part of FirstEnergy), was planning a conference to help its leaders better understand the strategy and their role in communicating this business strategy to their organizations. Davis & Company designed the meeting’s agenda and developed learning sessions— on such topics as maximizing meetings, preparing communication plans and face-to- face communication—to help leaders become more effective communicators. Test your skills Round 5 Storytelling is one way leaders and managers can help create understanding of change. True False Check the answer on page 14 communication skills Change communication playbook: Coach leaders and managers to win 13 © 2013
  14. 14. White paper | September 2013 Quiz answers: 1. True.2. (C.) How does this change affect me? 3. True. These time-efficient, short- burst meetings are a great way to address immediate questions and challenges to help your team stay focused on their roles and make successful completions. 4. True. You need to be careful of disclosure restrictions, of course, but try to get FAQs in managers’ hands as early as possible. After all, managers can’t be in the game if they’re cooling their heels in the penalty box. 5. True. About Davis & Company Davis & Company is an award-winning firm that helps companies reach, engage and motivate their employees. Founded in 1984, Davis & Company develops innovative solutions and programs that improve the success of employee communication for leading companies such as PepsiCo, Prudential and Tyco. The company also offers web-based workshops, industry reports, how-to books and newsletters for communication professionals on important topics pertaining to employee communication. The firm is based in Glen Rock, N.J. For more information, visit Change communication Getting employees to buy into change—no matter how small—can be a challenge. And when change is dramatic, the degree of difficulty increases. But, when should communication start? What are the most effective tools? We have experience with many kinds of change—from reorganizations to process improvements to new systems. Let us help you communicate change in a way that clearly explains the reasons why. To schedule a consultation, just call us at 1-877-399-5100 or email Alison Davis at 14 Change communication playbook: Coach leaders and managers to win © 2013
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Communicating change can feel like a losing game. Employees are eager to know what’s going to happen and how it’s going to affect their jobs. But leaders and managers often lack the skills or the time to help employees understand the scope of the change. Turn your leaders into change communication all-stars by coaching them through a comprehensive plan that explains their roles and sets expectations. The five steps outlined in our “Change Communication Playbook” will give you the framework you need to communicate your message efficiently and have your whole staff playing ball! To Learn more about how to communicate change effectively in an organization visit


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