Friday, July 28, 2006

Communicating Change

Leaders are change agents. Since most people don't like change, effectively communicating change is an important leadership skill. Although it is geared towards our NCC small group leaders, this article gives some tips on how to communicate change in your church or organization.

Here is an excerpt:

The first and most important tip is that there is no pain-free or easy way to communicate change. Seventy-percent of Americans have “stable” personality types, which means they don’t like change. They adopt and adapt only after much persuasion. Change is difficult and there is no easy way to do it. That’s why communication is the role of leaders.

Understand the different ways in which people respond to change- innovators, early adopters, late adopters, and resistors. There will always be people who love change, and there will always be people who dig in their heels and completely resist change. It doesn’t matter how obvious the need is for how well you communicate it, there will be people who simply don’t agree. Some people may even leave. That’s okay. When you understand personality types and make yourself aware of the fact that most people do not jump quickly to change, you will be able have more confidence and peace about what you are communicating. Be patient.

Answer the following questions: What is changing? Why is it changing? How will it affect me? What is the goal? You need to know the answers to those questions yourself, and you need to be able to articulate them. People need to know exactly what is changing, but more importantly they need to know why it is changing. My boss in a previous job re-organized the entire workplace– new workstations, new offices for everyone, new office set-up. He did it simply because he believed that “regular change is good.” He was right, and that’s probably a pretty good reason. But it didn’t sufficiently answer the “why” question for most people. Yes, regular change is good, but why? He could have said something like, “I think productivity might improve if we…” or “I am concerned about the level of socializing so…” or “I think it makes more sense for these folks to be closer…” Regular change is good…but people need to know why. And even more importantly, people need to understand the ultimate goal and how the change will affect them personally.

Share information as soon as possible. If change is on the horizon, communicate it as soon as possible. This is an area where we really want to improve as a staff. We know we are weak here, and we want to be more intentional about rolling out information to you guys first. If you know you want to multiply a group in the next semester or two, begin talking about it now. That will give time for those late-adopters to buy into the vision and embrace it as their own.

Use a variety of communication channels and vehicles—emails, group meetings, corporate announcements, individual meetings, blogs, etc. Do not rely on only one method to get the word out. Send group emails and individual emails. Carve out group time to talk about it. Make announcements corporately and meet with people individually. Use a blog or google group. When change is coming, talk about it early, often, and in as many formats as possible. Answer the what, why, how, and goal questions in both written and verbal contexts.

Give people adequate opportunities to ask questions, express concerns, offer ideas, etc. A lot of times, people just want to be heard. They want to make sure that someone is listening to their questions, concerns, and ideas. In order for someone to understand and embrace the vision as their own, they need the freedom and opportunity to be a part of the vision-forming process. If necessary, bring in others to listen, as well. For instance, if NCC launches a new initiative and there are people in the group who need to ask questions, feel free to ask a zone leader or staff pastor to visit the group to help communicate that vision.

Model the changes yourself. Your group will follow you. If you want to introduce a culture of service in your group, begin to serve. If you want your group to explore the discipleship map, go to those core groups and take people with you or integrate those curricula into your own group. If you want people to be pray for the next NCC launch, then you must be praying yourself.


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