Leadership through Communication Part 1

We are staring into the abyss.  Despite the over 1 billion recent media reports comprising both real and fake news, we honestly don’t know what the next few weeks or months will bring.

What we know is that the more things change…. the faster they change!    

The minute we enter the change curve we climb onto an emotional roller-coaster that hurtles us through fear, anger and surprise until we choose to either remain in the darkness or embrace the new normal.   Change is instinctively felt as loss and the current opportunity is to reframe such loss into gain.

The two keys to navigating through and flattening the curve are LEADERSHIP AND COMMUNICATION.

As the Corona pandemic has taken hold society as we know it, there is now a prevailing sense of fear and helplessness with many unanswered (and unanswerable) questions, triggering a flight, fight or freeze response.  The typical response to change, in the face of the unknown and in the absence of credible solutions, is to create a vacuum of silence.  Inevitably this vacuum becomes filled by self-created, internal dialogue fueled by fears and uncertainty.

Leading through Conversation is necessary and vital. It’s about providing clear, ongoing, transparent, two-way communication.  We have developed a 10-point plan to take you and your teams through the change curve.  Here are the first five…

Still the Fear

When the brain has what is known as an “amygdala hijack”, the brain is flooded with cortisol which causes the flight, fight or freeze response and this causes the rational thinking brain to shut down.  This is why rational, factual communication has limited impact.  Leaders who provide a safe space for individuals and teams to express their fears and respond with transparent empathy and compassion will still the fear response and open the conversation to see the way forward.  Using the science and magic of conversational intelligence you can re-engineer the brain for positivity.

he fastest way to engage your people is to connect, listen and give them a sense of purpose.  During times of crisis, a strong WHY is a comforting north star that helps navigate a storm.  Draw on their emotions, expertise and encourage them to be part of the solution – and most importantly, show them that you care.  A solid leadership response is a human one.  In the shadow of the crisis facing you as a business sit people with fears for their families, their security, their futures.  Promote a message of #StrongerTogether.

Set up agile Communication Channels

In times of change, heavy, time consuming, top-down communication is counter-productive.  The key word here is “Connection”.  Bulk emails and newsletters, whilst informative at a different level, lack the personal connection required here.  Use every day, simple technology to reach people with the familiar visual, responsive and personalized messages they use themselves, in the form of videos, and simple messages.  SMS’s, WhatsApp, Zoom and Skype are ordinary every day, familiar collaborative platforms which are superb to both communicate and connect.   A quickly executed campaign which speaks effectively and clearly to everyone in the organization with feedback loops to listen and respond, will go a long way to quickly quieten fears and motivate action.  

Get into the Driver’s seat of your Business

When people no longer feel that they’re in the driver’s seat of their own lives it is natural for the paralysis of fear to set in.  Much of the anger, frustration and fear in the everyday change curve becomes focused on the things outside of personal control.   In your circle of control, you need to focus on the present and channel people’s energy into that which you, and they, can control in order to make the most of these moments.   

1.      Reframe your own Story

Every change curve is caused by a story of immediate or drastic change.  We develop, with you, and then clearly articulate, your current story.  As people come to feel part of this story, and see themselves in it, they become part of it.  Your story must reframe your own narrative and in doing so open the space for the future to emerge.  This new narrative can either be a short-term strategy to weather the storm or a pivot to a new way of doing business in the long term.

It was Churchill who said, ‘don’t let a good crisis go to waste’.  We have reached the middle of the curve.  By now you will have got to the Accept/Dismiss decision point.  You can choose to remain with what you know or you can choose to move forward and embrace the change.  In the second part of this article we will show you how to do that.  

Bev Hancock is a conversational catalyst, strategic facilitator and global speaker who focuses on Leading through Conversation.  As a conversational intelligence and leadership practitioner, she helps you to shape the conversations you need to have through the change curve.  Together with colleague Michael Jackson, a presentation and change specialist, they create team thinking experiences and consult on developing agile communications strategies and content.  To start a conversation with them, contact Bev at bev@kamva.net or Michael Jackson on michael@theothermichaeljackson.com.