Making decisions can be complex, especially when it involves people. As managers, we put so much thought into the decisions we make that by the time the decision is made, our energy for that situation is spent. The decision-making group walks away and tackles the next situation. Leaders, however, know that if you stop there, you missed the most important piece – the people. Your decision will impact people and it’s essential to carefully craft a communication strategy and plan.
Working through this with a client, I was reminded of a great leadership lesson from Office Space. Don’t just fix the glitch, be a leader. Here’s the clip.
Managers will execute for the business. They made the decision (Milton won’t work here anymore), they fixed the glitch (he won’t receive a paycheck), and they moved on/avoided potential conflict (“these things just work themselves out”).
Leaders balance the needs of the business with the needs of their people. They make the tough decisions (we are letting Milton go) AND have a communication strategy and plan to accompany major decisions.
Here are a few factors to consider when developing a communication strategy and plan.
1 – Who are the audiences? In this case, it may be:
– Directly Impacted: Milton, his manager, the employees taking on his work
– Indirectly Impacted: his peers, coworkers that sit near him, the office manager
– The Follow-Up: your boss, the management team
2 – What do they need to hear? Go audience by audience and consider: the decision, the why, and the plan forward.
3 – Who, how and when do they need to hear? Will it cascade from manager to manager? Will there be a company-wide or team-wide email? Does the plan happen quickly to reduce chatter and gossip?
4 – Execute. Once you have the plan, execute! If you tend to avoid conflict or don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, remember that it’s not about you. It’s about them and they need to know so they can move forward. Rip it off like a band-aid.
5 – Reflect. Look back at how it went. How are people feeling? Is everyone ready to move forward or do they need more? Did you miss a key message?
In the end, common sense always wins. Be a proactive, transparent leader. Empathize with each audience and think what you would want if you were in their shoes. When you continue to have a track record of transparency and warmth, you’ll develop a trusting culture where the team is set up to succeed.