The Hidden Value of Communicating Why

| April 25, 2013 | 0 Comments

I recently had the opportunity to provide a series of workshops on Leading and Managing Change. This edition of Musings on the Cove touches on an important element in successfully leading and facilitating change – providing the Why. A leader’s willingness to provide the Why is impacted by his or her belief in honesty, transparency and trust.

Articulating the Why provides two great outcomes.

1. As we know, plans change because our environment changes or our perception of the facts change. Committing to providing the Why forces us to disclose our reasoning and naturally leads to greater transparency. “I believe that moving into the development of this new product line will better serve our customers based on these facts . . . .” “We believe that the risks are outweighed by the rewards, but we will be evaluating the project on a monthly basis and will make course corrections as necessary.”

Here is the value to our employees in clarifying the Why:

a. Management has given this action thought

b. Management is aware that risks exist

c. Certain variables could signal a possible change

d. If there is a change, it’s not a knee-jerk reaction

e. Management has demonstrated flexibility, responsiveness and awareness of    the external and internal environment

2. Providing clarity of the Why opens the opportunity for review by our employees. Imagine this scene:You are talking to your department about investing in the development of a particular technology because you believe it addresses a significant need of several of your clients. In your opinion, they’ve been clamoring for it. This new endeavor will require a change to time spent on other projects. As you describe the Why a hand is raised in the group. She’s a mid-level manager who understands your business. “You stated that one of the reasons we’re going down this path is that it will address the data specifications that our clients need for compliance. I could be wrong but, my understanding is that the federal regulations that require the collection of this sort of data is going to be completely overhauled within the next year. It’s not been communicated well, but was brought up at an agency briefing last month. I don’t think our clients understand this shift and I’d hate for us to start down a development path on something that’s going to be quickly outdated.”

Silence. Uncomfortable. You are thinking to yourself, “Assuming that it’s true, why didn’t I know that?” Here’s the issue. You cannot know everything. We need to count on our staff to be multipliers of our collective knowledge. If our staff understand our Why, they can let us know when we have not considered some important details. We invite them in to our thinking. It’s more than just their eyes and ears, it’s their knowledge and their analytical capabilities.

We need to stop attempting to sell change. We need to provide a compelling Why, that we believe in, that captures our employee’s minds and hearts. We also need to engage our employees in such a manner that they are willing to get on board with the Why which includes questioning and raising issues that serve to validate or improve our plan for change.

I would recommend two books on the principles of leading and managing change:

Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath and Terms of Engagement by Richard Axelrod.

Julia

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Category: Decision Making, Leadership, Newsletters

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About the Author ()

Julia Hill-Nichols, SPHR, is the founder of LeadersCove, LLC. With over 30 years experience in operations and human capital management, Julia is gifted in the art and science of bridging strategic imperatives and a company’s human capabilities—executing for success, meeting bottom-line objectives and enlivening the people who are the organization’s lifeblood.

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