Communication is an important part of the change leadership process. We often talk in concepts and strategies. We develop communication plans. In all this high level discussion it’s very easy to minimize the fact that change communication involves person to person interaction. This article provides a number of tips to ensure you are optimizing your change communication goals in every meeting.
This is a less than comprehensive list. There are links to Change Project Management – The Next Step tools that expand these tips.
Strategize. I’ve been in many meetings with no goal. Or, if there was a goal it was somehow a secret. Even the most regular, recurring meeting should have a stated goal. The goal may be to generate some action. Perhaps it’s to inform so the participants generate some action. Maybe it’s to learn about the last action taken to prepare for the next action. You get the idea.
You don’t have to always state the purpose and goal of the meeting right at the onset. You can develop the story as you go and lead to the goal. But, by the time the meeting is completed everyone should understand the goal of the meeting and how they are going to take action as a result of the meeting. So that gets us to the most important piece of the puzzle. You need to know what your goal is for the meeting. If you don’t know the goal you should postpone the meeting or just cancel it. The worst meetings are the ones without a goal. Don’t do this to your team. It sets a dangerous precedent. Use your strategic mind. Identify the goal and plan your meetings.
One overriding goal for meetings you host is that participants feel useful and productive. The root cause of complaints about meetings is that they are a waste of time. In your strategy for the meeting define how each participant will be useful in reaching the goals of the meeting. Also define ways they can be productive with their contributions in the meeting.
Pre-meeting. Change leadership is important. Meetings should never be left to chance. A good lawyer knows how the witness will answer before asking any question. This comes from preparation. Although it certainly takes time, for any important meeting, pre-meetings with key participants are advisable. Your motto should be, “No Surprises.” Participants feel engaged as part of your effort when consulted ahead of time, and they have a tendency to be supportive of your direction when they’ve had time to process the news.
Logistics. You will always benefit by arriving beforehand and preparing logistics like audio/visual, room setup, and refreshments. Change project meetings should be carefully orchestrated and tested rather than games of chance. The message is easily lost in the midst of cramped seating or slides that aren’t readable.
Foundation for Change. Always open with your foundation for change. Rather than the usual boring agenda review at the start of the meeting, draw a parallel between each agenda item and it’s connection to the foundation for change for your initiative. This clarifies your thinking and gets participants on the right page, never losing site of the purpose of the change initiative.
Slides. Why do you have a PowerPoint slide deck? How does it serve the message? If the answer is, to provide a crutch for the presenter, you probably shouldn’t have the slides. If the answer is, to provide documentation for the participants, think about a handout vs. slides. Text slides = boring. Boring = message not delivered.
Close. We’ve all experienced the presentation that awkwardly ends with: “Are there any questions?” Most times there aren’t any. Perhaps because we don’t think the speaker really wants to take any questions. But, what happens if a Q/A actually breaks out?
Always close with your close. You want to control the information flow and the message that your audience leaves with. If you end on Q/A, you’re at the mercy of the last question. It might not be the message you want to send. Although it’s best to generate interaction and questions throughout, it’s OK to ask for questions near the end, but always take the opportunity to close the presentation with the message you want to leave.
Change Breakthrough Analysis. Rather than simply asking if there are any questions, use of the Change Breakthrough Analysis tool clarifies that your message got through and also helps identify real feedback and assist in the reconciliation process for your constituents.
Learn more about the Change Breakthrough Analysis tool and contact us if you would like to learn how to facilitate this tool in your meetings.
Meetings are a necessary evil. The majority of things critical to success as a change leader happen in a meeting. We need to be better at this important but often overlooked skill set.