Have you heard the saying “good news travels fast?” Well, bad information travels even faster. The rumor mill can quickly take control of your message and cost you hours in damage control and lost productivity. To complicate matters, what is appropriate communication to one can be bad news to others. For example, simply announcing the “what” without explaining the “why” and it’s anticipated impact – particularly to those affected – can overshadow progress. Information vacuums fuel distracting gossip and crippling anxiety as people make up and spread their own version of “why.”
Stay ahead of the warp speed at which bad information travels by being proactive. When sharing information about a change – be it a new procedure, a shift in workflow, or a redesign of the structure – explain the “what,” the “why” and the anticipated impact up front. Keep your message positive, focusing on the business benefits and how the change is expected to foster better teamwork, create needed efficiencies, improved customer satisfaction, etc.
Test your message regarding news of an impending change with a small group who can help you understand how those affected might react. Encourage them to pepper you with the kind of reactions you’re likely to receive. This exercise will enable you to be better prepared and able to more effectively address concerns, especially those you might not have anticipated. Testing your message in advance of any announcement may spark important adjustments to what you will say and how you’ll say it.
Use this preparation process before announcing technology upgrades, process alterations, organizational restructuring, personnel moves, mergers, acquisitions, changes in leadership or anything that might send ripples of gossip, or a wave of dissatisfaction, through your organization.
Whenever familiar ground is about to shift, it’s always best to explain the “what,” the “why” and the expected impact of the new. Thoughtful, well-planned communication, respectfully delivered, can make any news more palatable.
Oh, one last thing: after you’ve answered the difficult questions, leave your door open to let your team know that you’re available for individual follow-up discussions.