Leading through change: 4 communication tips for leaders

Leaders are responsible for shepherding their teams through change, but in today's world, they must do so in VUCA — a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world where they not only confront periods of uncertainty, but are constantly immersed in it, according to Liz Wiseman, president of Wiseman group.

In a recent article in Fortune, Ms. Wiseman described how executives must adapt their strategies to fit the constantly changing demands of their market. As she puts it, leaders' strategies should look "more like a slice of Swiss cheese than a precise battle plan."

The most critical key to leading an organization through change is communication, according to Ms. Wiseman. A lack of communication leads to too many unknowns, which leads to anxiety and unrest among employees. Often, this deficiency of communication is due to leaders falling into the trap of waiting until they have all of the information before sharing it with others. However, when they go silent, employees not only fear the worst, they also begin to question the stability and their trust in the organization's leadership.

Instead of waiting for information to come in or pretending you have all the answers, Ms. Wiseman suggests the following four tips to improve communication during times of change.

1. Identify the unknowns. The first thing a leader should do during a transition period is clarify what is known and what remains an assumption.

2. Make a "don't know yet" list. Write down all of the things you don't know but will need to understand better as change progresses.

3. Define the questions. State all of the questions that remain and outline the data or other resources needed to answer them.

4. Engage your team. After sharing what you know with your team, tell them what you don't. The next step is allowing your team to help you find the answers. In a VUCA world, leaders need all the intel they can get their hands on, making others' insights and expertise valuable. Additionally, people work harder when they feel they are in control of their own fate, and allowing them to play a bigger role in problem solving will encourage this.

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