Thursday, November 15, 2007

Change Management 7: Three Techniques to Improve Communication, Empathy and Setting an Example.

Change Management 7

Three Techniques to Improve Communication, Empathy and Setting an Example.

Last year I was teaching my Organizational Dynamics class. It was a large class of adults with years of business experience. While discussing the verisimilitude of change management, the class listed thirty factors for effective change management. We took these thirty factors and did a lazy man’s Factor Analysis. A Factor Analysis is a statistical technique used to whittle many factors into a few core factors. It’s also so complex that it has unhinged even the most steadfast of researchers. We derived three core factors consisting of Communication, Empathy, and Self as Example. Not surprisingly, these are the same core factors the research literature described as being the most important.

Let's look at each factor and some specific techniques. First, communication sounds easy, but companies and even departments differ in important ways. It’s no fun when only half the people show up for your meeting-that’s a communication issue.

Let's say that you need to schedule a meeting for everyone regarding an important legal change that affects your business. What’s the most effective means of communication-email, phone, pager, text message, memo, or personal visit? Rank these communication channels from highest to lowest. If you can’t do this quickly, maybe you need to give this a bit more thought. In the various settings where I work, the effectiveness of these communication channels differs not only from department to department but from individual to individual.

Try this technique. The next time you walk down the hall, with each person you see, mentally say their best communication channel: Mr. email, Ms. phone call, Dr. personal chat. You’ll discover that it's not as easy as you think.

Let's look at increasing empathy. Empathy is a complex concept that psychologists have spent a lot of time measuring and analyzing. It essentially means feeling what someone else is feeling, or at least understanding intellectually what they are feeling. Again, this sounds simple. It is rather simple but not easy. I probably don’t have to tell you how many times we are all astounded by someone’s insensitivity, not just toward us personally, perhaps, but toward us as employees or members of a particular department.
I know you don’t want to be like that, so here’s an excellent technique for developing empathy.

Pick out one or two people who are going through some organizational change. Now pretend you are in their shoes and answer the following questions.
1. Which professional skills will be changed? In other words, what am I losing professionally? For example, will I be doing less analysis and more client contact or visa-versa? How will I feel about that?
2. What contacts or personal support will I be losing and how do I feel about that?
3. In what way will I be more or less autonomous? This questions addresses responsibility gain or loss.

Changes in skills, associations, and responsibilities are the three domains that are most concerning for people during organizational change

Finally, how do you demonstrate your self-involvement in the change process? It’s tremendously helpful for those undergoing change to see those up the hierarchy addressing (and sometimes struggling with) these same challenges. It’s as simple as that.

A good technique is to list 3 ways that people will be able to see that you are actively involved in the change process. With each of these three, using your new empathy skills, list how they might perceive you as you set a positive example.

These techniques work and they’ll work for you. Try it, you’ll like it.


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