How do we communicate and bring senior team leaders along on a journey of change?


Leadership blockers to change

Organisational change is something we frequently support clients with and we’re often asked about how best to communicate change effectively and bring people along on the journey.

In our recent Reality check research into the issues and chaos affecting organisations and teams, respondents had the opportunity to ask any burning questions. Several of the questions were about organisational change and communicating change. I answered each person directly, but wanted to share my response to a great question – and it’s something that often comes up:

Q: How do we communicate and bring senior team leaders along a journey of change when they are both blockers to the change needed and passionate about what the company does? They have also commented that they know they need to change to continue to grow the company.

This is such a good question. Firstly, if the senior leadership team are blockers to change, we need to understand why they’re blocking the change. There are a lot of coaching conversations needed here.

Are they blocking change because…

  • They don’t like it?
  • They’re scared?
  • They think they’ve got a better idea and haven’t been able to share it?

There could be lots of reasons why they’re being difficult or obstructing change. We just need to understand why that is and go into that conversation with them, without our own personal bias about that person. Making sure that we’re actively listening to what they’re saying and checking any bias is essential. We need to go into the conversation to understand, not to try and persuade in any way.

When the senior leadership team is passionate about the company, this is key because if the company is going through a journey of change, they might have been passionate about what the company did, but not passionate about what the company is going to do.

In this case, we need to understand what that passion is linked to.

Is it linked to…

  • The overall organisational purpose?
  • How things were?
  • Thinking they know better?

I’ve worked with clients where there have been individuals who’ve been part of the leadership team and are very passionate about the company, while also playing a big part in blocking change.

We must have some very real conversations about whether people are able to stay within the organisation – which is uncomfortable – but if you are going through a significant journey of change, you’re going to need to look at organisational design too.

In relation to the final part of the question about people who have commented that they know things need to change to continue to grow the company, but are still blocking change, coaching is highly recommended. That’s really the only solution: to bring in some executive coaches to help them work that through.

We need to understand why it’s happening, and it’s only through coaching and having those conversations and being very clear about how the team needs to work together that we can do this.

We often recommend a mix of coaching. We’ve been working with a board that’s got a big organisational transformation going on because of COVID-19. In this case, we need to make sure that there’s some individual coaching to make sure people are leading in the right way, but there’s also a need for the whole board to have coaching together – this is something that’s often missed.

If you are going through an organisational transformation or working on a change project and are looking to engage and align your leadership team fully in the process, please get in touch. You might also find this podcast episode, Chaos to calm: Communicating change and this article Tried-and-tested frameworks for communicating organisational change useful.

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