The Junior League of Northern Virginia recently asked me to conduct a training on leadership communications during change. No small ask, as “The League” is a global organization that generates community change through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers who promote voluntarism and develop the potential of women. Members are constantly on their A-game, to say the least – leading careers, leading families, leading boards, leading programs.
As I worked on my presentation, I thought about my communications work that helped leaders implement national changes. Reached 100 million Americans to help increase patient awareness of UFE, a non-surgical treatment for uterine fibroids. Increased access to care for rural Veterans by 240% in five years. Facilitated the employment of 60,000 military spouse hires – meeting the White House goal two years ahead of schedule. Increased combat wounded soldiers’ knowledge of an Army program’s services by 35.1% in one year.
I glanced at some of the books on my shelf: Lead from Outside, The Art of Possibility, Missing Conversations, The Leadership Challenge, You Are Your Best Thing, The Third Door, Resonate Leadership, The Five Levels of Attraction, Change Management, Switch, and Change Better. The books on change are endless… and it seems like you barely finish one book before the approach to change itself has changed.
I realized the success of leadership communications to drive a change comes down to a few simple things:
- A vivid, simple, clearly articulated vision of how the change makes a difference for people in and out of the organization.
- A consistent, frequent, repeatable approach to sharing information on the change that is centered on the people in the change (not the organization).
- A litmus test for this is to ask yourself how does your communications help people: understand the change, believe in the change, internalize the change, prepare for the change, see success, try the change, advocate for the change, elevate issues, see the work change, and be the change?
- Active listening to those who must walk into the change—as a builder (employee), as a partner, and a customer—and tangibly show them how you applied their feedback to address their perspective and needs.
- Publicly using data to show what is working in terms of people walking into the change (behaviors and outcomes) and what isn’t, in order to modify the approach.
- An engaged leader who devotes time, resources, energy, and emotion to the cause, over and over and over and over and over again to bring people into new possibilities, new thinking, new solutions, new actions, and new outcomes. They bring people with them, find new people to join them, and celebrates people along the journey.
But leadership communications in a change is not just about the CEO, SES federal leader, military Commander, or division manager. Leadership communications is at every level. It’s as much about a mindset as the words shared. Successful leadership communications is about bravery.
Bravery to bring voice to the unseen.
Bravery to acknowledge mistakes publicly and regroup.
Bravery to dig into and share the data with others in order to build better solutions.
Bravery to invite adversaries to the table and find common ground.
Bravery to call upon your peers when you’re beyond your expertise.
Bravery to seek diversity and move beyond the established “leadership team.”
Bravery to let others step in so that you can recharge.
Bravery to stay the course when it gets hard, and it will.
Bravery to be silly to lighten the mood.
Bravery to move beyond the board room and be a public cheerleader.
Bravery to reveal your own challenge with change.
Bravery to show change in action.
Why be brave? Because bravery is where great service to others occurs. As Dr. Rebecca Ray states, “She was never quite ready. But she was brave. And the universe listens to brave.”