Communicating the Hard Messages

By Kathy Miller on July 10th, 2013

Why are leaders so reluctant to clearly communicate the hard stuff?

I have been advising an executive in top-notch, global professional services firm.   The firm is revamping the organizational structure to support a new ‘go-to-market’ strategy.  The partners are enthusiastic about the change.  However, all are concerned about the personal power to be gained and lost as a result of the reorganization.  The top level executive knows of the rumblings yet will not communicate clear, direct messages to those most likely to feel the effects of the changes.  I have suggested that he identify those who are most likely to be impacted personally and meet with them one-on-one to discuss his plans for them.  Instead, over the past months, he has consistently let the grapevine carry the hard messages.  As a result, people are hearing about their futures from everyone but their  boss.

Most of us don’t like to deliver messages that the recipient will find hard to hear.  However none of us wants to hear news that will affect our professional futures from the grapevine.  We want to hear the news, good or bad, from our leaders.

Remember that leaders can directly affect acceptance of or resistance to change by taking on the difficult role of  chief change communicator.  Effective leaders take personal responsibility for speaking to the change-related issues, both formally and informally.  Communicating during change cannot be delegated completely to others.  An effective communications strategy depends on the leader(s)’ willingness to be the loudest and most frequently heard voice(s) throughout the entire change process.

And, by the way, my client who is leading the reorganization finally got the message.  He realizes that he can avoid even greater consternation and confrontation later by communicating clearly and directly now.  He is stepping up to the plate!