What Does It Take To Improve Your Culture


What Does It Take To Improve Your Culture


The culture of a company, organisation or team is the make or break between growth and decline, retention and turnover, and success and failure. Too often we hear comments such as “toxic culture”, “team unrest”, “trouble in the boardroom” and “disorder in the trenches” that disrupt team cohesion, productivity and performance. If you are facing a storm in a teacup, what steps can you take to re-right the ship and ensure that your culture breeds success?

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.



First of all, let’s take a look at what culture is. Culture is our:

  1. Shared behaviours and the way we treat each other;
  2. Voices and our actions;
  3. Products and services;
  4. Capacity to learn and transmit knowledge to succeeding generations;
  5. Customers and consumers;
  6. Way of acting and interacting with others;
  7. Combined way of life;
  8. Attitudes, beliefs and philosophies; and
  9. Community and ourselves.

What we do as a leader is ultimately more important than what we say when it comes to culture. In essence, culture is the personality and DNA of the company, organisation or team.

There are, in general, four types of organisational or team culture:

  1. We do things 1st – Our focus is making breakthroughs and creating the future through adhocracy.
  2. We do things fast – We love to compete and want to be the fastest to go to market with a short-term performance focus.
  3. We do things right – Our culture is to make incremental checks, do our homework and control the process through a hierarchical approach.
  4. We do things together – We collaborate and are focused on long-term development in a tribe type environment

“The most important thing about culture is that it is the only sustainable difference for any organisation. Anyone can copy a company’s strategy, but nobody can copy their culture.”



It is important to understand your current culture and what it will look like in the future is the first part of the process to support successful change. Once you understand what the future looks like, from a culture point-of-view, you then need to utilise your collaboration skills to engage your team to commence the implementation phase and begin establishing the cultural behaviours. Finally, you need to coach and mange your team so that it is embedded in the way things are done in your organisation or team.

UNDERSTAND what you want to look like and establish the expectations that are required to get there:

  1. Complete a cultural audit by evaluating your current culture and performance.
  2. Clearly define your initial vision
  3. Develop a new set of expectations by clarifying your values and behaviours

COLLABORATE through teamwork and align your team so a common vision can be achieved.

  1. Identify and clearly articulate your strategic priorities
  2. Bring your team together and engage them in developing and defining your team goals
  3. Focus on your results and build accountability through clarifying and tracking key measures

COACH and manage your team to ensure that culture is cohesively developed and ingrained.

  1. Build a management system that incorporates the cultural drivers, priorities and goals
  2. Guide, manage and communicate your new habits and routines
  3. Celebrate the small wins and build team motivation throughout the process

“A culture of discipline is a principle of business, it is a principle of greatness.”



Changing an organisational or team culture is one of the biggest challenges a leader will face. This is due to a culture comprising an interlocking set of attitudes, processes, roles, goals, values, attitudes, communication and assumptions. It is unique for every organisation and team, and therefore every change requires a unique approach. A leader will need to be prepared to disrupt the organisation or teams deepest values, beliefs and what it holds closest to its heart.

Culture is deeply embedded into every layer of an organisation and requires the leader to question everything to fully understand what aspects are absolutely crucial to extract or mould for a better future. It is constantly evolving over time, although the culture is deeply linked to its history and development.

Important elements to consider when preparing for change:

  1. LISTEN to employees, by giving them a voice
  2. COMMUNICATE through 2-way communication and feedback channels
  3. LEAD by example by seeking, speaking and acting with truth
  4. FEEDBACK on a regular basis to and from employees
  5. COLLABORATE openly rather than in isolation, through encouraging sharing and healthy debates
  6. TRANSPARENCY by leveraging tools to stay on the same page
  7. APPRECIATION with a sustainable reward and recognition program
  8. CHALLENGE and encourage employees to take risks
  9. TEAM approach by creating a supportive environment that cultivates strong co-worker relationships
  10. CARE by showing that people matter
  11. ENJOYMENT in a light-hearted and fun environment
  12. PURPOSE with passion
  13. COMMON language, values and standards
  14. PERSISTANCE and consistency in your approach
  15. FLEXIBILITY by adapting and evolving throughout the process
  16. WORK-LIFE integration and/or balance
  17. EMPOWER employees by providing a sense of freedom and ownership, as well as embracing and inspiring employee autonomy
  18. BOUNDARIES that have clearly defined roles, responsibilities and accountabilities
  19. LEARNING environment through continuous training and development
  20. RECOGNISE and solve, both individual and organisation,  problems  and issues

CASE STUDY: A few real life examples of how I have implemented some of the requirements for change:

LISTEN – We implemented a “pebble in my shoe” segment during our monthly team meeting, which allowed people to openly express things that were living rent-free in their mind.

COLLABORATE – In one organization, we established a 3hour period on Wednesday afternoons for employees to work on creative team projects that were focussed on innovation .

APPRECIATION – Working in hospitality, we had a company-wide manager meeting just before lunch every day, where we recognised at least one employee or team achievement.

ENJOYMENT – Every month we had a staff party, which had a different theme, where each team worked together to create a skit, performance or show.

CARE – At a recent coaching course, the attending coaches wrote a handwritten thank you card that was individualized for every presenter.

PURPOSE – To bring out the passion from our employees we changed our values to philosophies and asked the employees to develop the meaning of each philosophy.

WORK-LIFE – I find I am most effective when I exercise before starting work and then go for a ride or run during lunch time as it provides clarity and reflection to the projects I am working on.  I have encouraged staff to do the same.

The cultural change process will test your full range of leadership skills. You cannot afford to take your attention away from the change process as a drop in momentum can have a negative effect on the cultural change. If you aren’t in the driver’s seat, you have no control over the final destination.

Tune in to next week’s article, which will discuss the leadership attributes of successful change, what a positive workplace looks like and developing a High Performance culture.

“Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organisation is transformed; the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day.”



Are Leaders Born? Link
It’s Your Story Link
Be A Rookie Link
Art Of Communication – Change Series Part 4 Link
Achieving Successful Change – Changes Series Part 3 Link
Change Tantrums – Change Series Part 2 Link
Why Change? – Change Series Part 1 Link
I Make No Apologies This Is Me! Link


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Be A rookie


By Craig Johns

Have you got a rookie or two? Imagine a workplace that is filled with employees and teams who are full of energy, enthusiasmcuriosity and an inner drive for gaining a competitive edge. Is that yours?

All businesses and organisations want innovation, creativity, productivity and forward progress. But, many leaders stifle their team member’s abilities through the processes, daily habits and environment they create. So how do you create a culture of curiosity, wonder, learning, creativity and inspiration?


In an ever changing world ‘it’s not what you know, it’s how quickly you can learn’. The more experienced you are as a leader and your team members are, the higher the likelihood of complacency, reduced productivity and a feeling of we already know how this business works.

Do you ever feel jealous when new employees join your organisation full of zest, inquisitiveness and desire to make an immediate difference?

The number one predictor of impact in a business or organisation, is productivity. As leaders we need to be continually ‘changing things up’, providing a culture of forward-thinking and inspiring creativity at all levels of the business or organisation.

Do you ever feel jealous when new employees join your organisation full of zest, inquisitiveness and desire to make an immediate difference? You wonder how they have so much energy, eagerness and why they ask so many questions, even challenging what is working well! You don’t have to wonder, you too can channel the energy of the Rookie!!!


Many leaders and managers feel frustrated with Rookies, more commonly known as new employees on their team, as the feel they are a short-term burden and at times a pest. They feel that the time it takes to train and invest in them is holding them back on current projects and immediate priorities. So, are leaders missing the point when we live in a constantly changing and evolving world?

I think so. If we take a look at people with experience, many tend to become stale and predictable, they stop seeing new possibilities and exploring new paths, and they are less likely to seek new perspectives. Due to habits performed over time, they tend to create several blind spots that hinder their growth as well as those they are leading or managing. (Wiseman, Unknown) It doesn’t have to be this way and there are a number of great examples of businesses and organisations, such as Apple, Google and Virgin, that are really effective at bringing out the Rookie in their team members.

“If we take a look at people with experience, many tend to become stale and predictable, they stop seeing new possibilities and exploring new paths, and they are less likely to seek new perspectives.”

Photo Credit: Kaye Asavathanachard

Before we go into some strategies to develop successful ‘Rookie culture’ businesses or organisations, let’s first understand what usual practices impede an innovative and creative environment. According to Wiseman (Unknown) excessive meetings, criticising ideas, rule overload, resisting change and punishing failure are common ways that leaders effect Rookie’s spirit and creativity.

  • Excessive meetings – stifle progress, discourage Rookies, limited time for brainstorming or new ideas, experienced push their agendas, Rookies not invited to share ideas
  • Criticising ideas – Rookies need time and space to try new ideas. Constant criticism will lead to Rookies becoming disillusioned and a loss of productivity
  • Rule overload – Rookies bring fresh ideas and rules will stifle and prevent new, creative ideas
  • Resisting change – resisting organisational change will show Rookies that ideas are either not welcome or aren’t good enough to succeed previous successes.
  • Punish failure – will lead to people operating in a safe place within the status quo.

As leaders we have to kick ‘mediocrity’ in the butt, and utilise the positive attributes of our Rookies and enhance our business or organisation culture, across the board.


Rookies tend to be more alert, move quicker and work smarter due to the significant knowledge or skills gap they face. They are primed for knowledge environments where change is occurring quickly, speed of tasks is crucial and innovation matters. However, according to Wiseman (2014) “they’re not well-suited for tasks that require technical mastery or where a single mistake is game-ending”.

Top performing Rookies are alert and seeking, cautious and fast, hungry and relentless, and unencumbered. On the reverse side, low performing Rookies feel invincible, have something to prove and can go into autopilot. When we compare this to experienced team members, the top performers simplify and clarify, they are agile and persistent, and are resourceful. Low performing experienced team members also feel invincible but are hindered by defending a reputation, questioning their own ability and are threatened by the new kids on the block. (Wiseman, 2014)

Photo Credit: TRIMag Asia

Leaders tend to underestimate the capabilities of Rookies and therefore delegate them mundane, easy and simple tasks when they first start in a role. Why not put their eagerness, energy and enthusiasm to play and allow them to make a difference right away? It provides a great opportunity to develop trust, build their self-esteem, feel part of the team and an opportunity to learn, whether they are successful or fail. They don’t necessarily need to be managed, “they need to be put in the game, pointed in the right direction, and given permission to play” (Wiseman, 2014).

Jon Gordon (Unknown) notes that “Rookies aren’t tainted by rejection, negative assumptions or past experiences. Rookies don’t focus on what everyone says is impossible”.  They tend to “put their head down, work hard, stay positive, live fearlessly and are naïve enough to be successful”. Rookies have a belief that anything is possible and there are no obstacles that are too difficult to navigate. “They bring an idealism, optimism and passion to their work”, and will proactively seek out knowledge, advice and support to make something happen.

They don’t necessarily need to be managed, “they need to be put in the game, pointed in the right direction, and given permission to play” (Wiseman, 2014).


How do we stop the cycle of mediocrity and complacency and bring out the Rookie in all team members, including you as a leader?

Kelley & Kelley (2012) believe that a leader’s job is not to teach our team members creativity, but to help them rediscover their creative confidence. As a child we have a “natural ability to come up with new ideas” and we aren’t afraid give them a go. Through age, our experiences and self consciousness can lead to falling into safe comfort zones as we develop fears that hinder our progress. A leader has the power to reinvigorate team members, and give them the confidence and courage to bring out their creative juices. Kelley and Kelley (2012) suggest leaders should develop strategies to assist team members to overcome four fears that hold most people back:

“fear of the messy unknown, fear of being judged, fear of the first step, and fear of losing control”.

Leaders need to nurture team members in a way that supports an environment of growth and thriving, while helping team members overcoming fears that inhibit them. We need to create ways to reward failure, not just success and reserve punishment only for inaction. As Thomas Sowell once said, “It is amazing how fast people learn when they are not insulated from the consequences of their decisions”.  Team members must understand that learning beats knowing every time, and that progress is a result of wonder and curiosity. Bill Gates believes, “success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose”. So let’s give our team members the permission to fail and to screw up, so we open their minds up to new ideas.

Liz Wiseman (2014) was her most creative and productive, not from having fresh ideas, but from having no ideas at all. She explains that “when you know nothing you’re forced to create something. When you’re a Rookie, you’re also a pioneer. You’re out there on the frontier without confidence, so you have to focus on the basics. You end up operating very lean”. If we look back to when we were a child we liked to have fun and ask all types of questions, including quite a few silly ones. Levitt and Dubner  (2014) identified that “kids are also relentlessly curious and relatively unbiased. Because they know so little, they don’t carry around the preconceptions that often stop people from seeing things as they are.”

Photo Credit: Sudanong Samantarat (Lek)

What should we do with those team members who spend every day talking and planning about what they are going to do but never do anything, or those are caught up in the ‘good old days’, complain about the way things are and are resistant to change? Should we ask them to leave, move them to a new department, demote them or even fire them? “Rookies don’t have experience. They don’t know about the way things were. They have no knowledge of the good ole days. Instead Rookies create their good ole days right now.” (Jon Gordon, Unknown)

As leaders we need to enable team members to use their experience to provide the business or organisation with expertise, and at the same time catalyse their Rookie mindsets to bring out optimism and passion in the work they do. Team members need to be inquisitive, utilise the knowledge of their networks, act cautiously but with speed, be hungry for results and relentless in the pursuit of new frontiers. We need to inspire our team members so they are pumped up for any opportunity, spread excitement across the business or organisation, have relentless pursuit and aren’t afraid of rejection or failure.

“As leaders we need to enable team members to use their experience to provide the business or organisation with expertise, and at the same time catalyse their Rookie mindsets to bring out optimism and passion in the work they do.”

It’s time to tap into your networks, forge new territory and generate fresh ideas. Let’s be willing to say ‘I don’t know’, ignore boundaries and ‘Bring out the Rookie‘ in you and your team members!


Gordon, J., (Unknown). Think Like a Rookie. http://www.jongordon.com. link
Kelley, T., Kelley, D., (2012). Reclaim Your Creative Conscious. Harvard Business Review, Dec. 2012. link
Levitt, S.D., & Dubner, S.J., (2014). Think Like a Freak: Secrets of the Rogue Economist. Penguin, UK.
Wiseman, L., (Unknown). Rookie Smarts Research. Rookie Smarts. link
Wiseman, L., (2014). Why Your Team Needs Rookies. Harvard Business Review, Oct. 2014. link

Read More Articles

Art Of Communication – Change Series Part 4 Link
Achieving Successful Change – Changes Series Part 3 Link
Change Tantrums – Change Series Part 2 Link
Why Change? – Change Series Part 1 Link
I Make No Apologies This Is Me! Link
Leaders Are Hired To… Link

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Change Series Part 4 – Art of Communication

By Craig Johns

It isn’t easy to change attitudes or relationships; they’re deeply ingrained in organizations and people. The heart and soul of change processes is communication, as people thrive in their comfort zones and are reluctant to move into a place of uncertainty. A communication plan is just as important as the project plan in a change process, and needs to be developed concurrently. Communication includes: what the change sponsor will say; aligning key messages with other leadership team members and middle management; preparing team members readiness for change; external stakeholder management; a means to creating a community; and supporting the emotional components of team members and the leadership team.

“At one extreme, a short project led by a skilled, motivated, and cohesive team, championed by top management and implemented in a department that is receptive to the change and has to put in very little additional effort, is bound to succeed. At the other extreme, a long, drawn-out project executed by an inexpert, unenthusiastic, and disjointed team, without any top-level sponsors and targeted at a function that dislikes the change and has to do a lot of extra work, will fail.” 

Harold et al., (2005)

This article is the final article of a four part series discussing transformational change from a variety of different angles and providing an insight into some of the organisational changes I have personally experienced. Part one considered why change is important for organisational success, ways to manage change, and organisational impact through change. Part two took a look at how to prioritise change, while investigating the challenges and resistance faced during change. Part three highlighted factors for successful change and implementing a continual change culture. This article, part four, will bring to light effective communication strategies during a change process.

Communication Strategy

A good communication strategy is the heart of any successful change process, and should be maintained throughout the entire duration. It needs to take into consideration changing audiences, leadership styles and team dynamics. The strategy will need to focus on aligning team members expectations, supporting the development of cohesive teams, emphasising leadership commitment, and explain the perceived need for change. To be effective, a communication strategy should define the reasons, benefits, plans and proposed effects of that change.

Poor communication, during a change process, leaves a feeling of uncertainty, loss of control and a feeling of unfamiliarity. Communication impacts team member’s emotions and reactions, and because of this can be a major determining factor for the outcome of the change process. Team members want to be kept up-to-date, whether it is positive or negative, and if communication is lacking, the uncertainty leads to work disruption, loss in productivity, lack of trust, and a feeling that they aren’t part of the decision-making process.

Being able to connect emotionally with your team members requires asking the right questions. William Bridge (2017), an organisational consultant, focuses on the emotional and psychological impact of change through three simple questions:

  1. What is changing?
  2. What will actually be different because of the change?
  3. Who is going to lose what?

To ensure an effective change communication strategy, messages need to have clarity; take into consideration the emotional tone and delivery; reach the right people with targeted messages; timely scheduling of messages; and a supportive feedback process to enable genuine two-way communication. The communication strategy needs to address the following:

  • Change objectives
  • Key messages
  • Communication reach
  • Information to be communicated
  • Timing of information
  • Level of detail and how much information
  • Mediums to disseminate messages
  • Feedback process

It is useful to disseminate the information widely, openly and early. To help team members feel more included, committed and have some control, it is valuable to include them as part of the change process. Leaders need to provide justification through clear communication of the change process vision and purpose. (Johansson & Heide, 2008)

“Words shape the world, questions illuminate it. Communication is the beginning and an indispensable part of change.”

Eva Snijders

Reducing Uncertainty

Under-communication is one of the key reasons change efforts fail according to Kotter (2007) in “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail”. Kotter notes that, “Transformation is impossible unless hundreds or thousands of people are willing to help, often to the point of making short-term sacrifices. Employees will not make sacrifices, even if they are unhappy with the status quo, unless they believe that useful change is possible. Without credible communication, and a lot of it, the hearts and minds of the troops are never captured.”

Let’s take a look at what some of the more common communication failures are during a change process:

  • Many leaders find it difficult to deliver the tough messages
  • Timing of messages isn’t delivered appropriately.
  • Team members miss messages as they aren’t delivered in the right mediums or formats.
  • Inconsistent messages.
  • The wrong people are delivering the messages.

Leaders face the challenge of how to motivate team members to see change as both desirable and necessary. They need to ensure that team members become willing participants rather than road blocks to change.

There is a clear relationship between uncertainty and communication according to Johansson & Heide (2008), and “that without effective employee communication, change is impossible and change management fails”. They discussed research that suggested successful change is dependent “on the accurate management of uncertainty associated with change, since poor or insufficient information will initiate rumours and gossip”. They also noted that “Uncertainty is often mentioned as a major source of psychological strain during the process and outcome of organizational change”. Their paper talked about communication reduces “uncertainty but also increases a sense of control over personal circumstances related to change and job satisfaction”.

Being ready to change is a pre-requisite for effective change, according to Elving (2005). Elving maintains that it is crucial to establish a goal to prevent or reduce resistance to change, otherwise change will struggle to be implemented. He also mentioned that reducing team members “uncertainty of their future situation” will create readiness for change and support the sense-making process.

Change processes are situation dependent, unpredictable and non-linear. This is a result of different people’s perspectives, understanding and the way they make sense of the change. Team members will analyse a change initiative, when they are first presented with it, and will aim to understand the ambiguity and potential effects on the organisation, department, colleagues and themselves. To try and understand what the change means they will “act, test and experiment”. (Johansson & Heide (2008) Sense-making is a social process, which occurs through communication. Effective change interventions, generally occur during everyday conversations, as “people in an organization have different backgrounds, interests, experiences, education, positions and so forth, they will also make sense of the very same situation in multiple ways” (Johansson & Heide (2008).

High Performing Organisation Best Practices (Barrett, 2002)

From the research into the company examples of effective employee communication, the following best practice definitions emerge:

  1. Strategic objectives – In high-performing companies, employee communication reinforces the company’s strategic objectives. There should be a one-to-one correlation between what the company has established as its strategic objectives and what is listed as the objectives for the communications. In addition, the communications must be structured to translate the central strategic messages (from vision to performance or financial goals) to all employees.
  2. Supportive management – Top-level and mid-level management must be directly involved in and assume responsibility for communications up, down, and across the organization. In a major change situation as well as for day-to-day operations, communication is not just what the communication staff does. Managers must model the behavior they expect of their employees, the old adage of “walking the talk.” They set the tone for an open or closed flow of information. Without them, the channels of communications cannot flow freely.
  3. Targeted messages – Targeted messages are very simply, information tailored to the audience (i.e., messages in different words for different people when necessary), so that the information is relevant and meaningful, at the same time that it is consistent. Thus, each business unit or division must tailor the important messages to their employees, and if necessary, convert the overall message of the corporate center into the digestible and actionable messages the employees can understand and act upon.
  4. Effective media/forums – Effective employee communication uses all vehicles to reach its audiences, but most importantly, it relies on direct, face-to-face communications over indirect, print or electronic media. Thus, interpersonal communication training, meeting management, and facilitation skills are necessary for all managers.
  5. Well-positioned staff – The communication staff needs to be close to the most important business issues, involved in the strategic and business planning processes. They must have a “seat at the table.” Being a member of the senior management team allows the senior communication officer to understand the company’s strategy and to participate in the decision making. In addition, the communication staff should be seen as facilitators of change not just as producers of publications.
  6. On-going assessment – The effectiveness of the company’s communication needs to be measured company-wide formally and frequently against clearly defined goals on an on-going basis and throughout the key stages of any major change. In addition, communication effectiveness needs to be evaluated as part of each employee’s individual performance appraisal with the appropriate recognition for excellence.
  7. Integrated processes – Communication needs to be integrated into the business processes with communication milestones included in the business plan and as part of the business planning process. Thus, communication should be placed on the agenda of meetings and built into the management discussion of strategic objectives and planning.

Change Communication Phases

Axero Solutions provide a very effective 4-phase change curve that considers team member productivity and morale over time. (Eisenhauer) During a change process they discuss how team member emotions go through denial, resistance, exploration and commitment phases.

  1. Denial Phase — People need information, when change is announced as team members often experience feelings of shock and/or denial. This is due to a feeling of uncertainty that there comfort zone is being affected. As the reality of change sinks in, team members need to understand what the change involves, what are the goals, will their role or team be affected, what is the timeline and what the help process is.
  2. Resistance Phase — People need support after the initial shock, as they begin to react to the news of change. Team members tend to resist change as they feel anger, resentment and fear. As this is a very emotionally charged phase, internal communications need to be carefully planned. A concerted team effort from the leadership group needs to carefully think through the feedback and objections from team members. This phase requires consistent messaging and well designed support for team members.
  3. Exploration Phase — People need direction once they have digested the majority of negative emotions and begin to accept that change will happen. Team members will now be ready to comprehend what change will mean to them, how their role will change, how they fit into the organisations bigger picture and what training will be provided. It is possible that productivity can drop during this phase as team members are learning new skills, understanding new processes and building new relationships if their team has changed.
  4. Commitment Phase — People need encouragement as the change has been fully embraced and excepted as a normal part of everyday life. It is an exciting time for the organisation as productivity begins to increase and processes become more efficient. Communication is still very important as team members need to see and hear that the change has achieved its goals and the leadership team showcases that the change has made a positive impact to the organisation. Team members can smell insecurity from the next postcode, so it is crucial that leaders continue to communicate encouraging and inspirational messages which celebrate successes, achievements and how far all team members have come.

Communication Checklist

Prosci, an organisation that focuses on change management, has developed an effective ten question checklist for change management communication. The checklist provides an easily understood, step-by-step process for leaders to connect with their team members and assure everyone is aligned. (Prosci, 2014)

  1. Use the change sponsor to deliver key messages about business issues and reasons for change, and immediate supervisor for personal impact on change.
  2. Answering the questions, “Why is this change happening?” and “What is the risk of not changing?”
  3. Answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” provides a compelling case to show how the team members will be better off and what they will get out of being involved in the change process.
  4. Communication should be through the change sponsor or immediate supervisor, rather than the project leader.
  5. Use face-to-face communication as predominant form of communication
  6. Repeat key messages five to seven times.
  7. Creating opportunities for two-way communication so the team members can share their concerns, provide feedback and ask questions. It also helps to create buy-in.
  8. Preparing the communicators to deliver effective communications and have the necessary conversations. Share the important messages, align messages between senders and plan the delivery sequence.
  9. Finding effective ways to reach your audience through a variety of communication channels. Be creative with your messages and include channels such as meetings, one-on-one conversations, newsletters, presentations, brainstorming workshops, lunch and learns, Intranet Q&A forums, CDs, screen saver messages, etc.
  10. Use assessment tools to evaluate the effectiveness (hearing and interpreting) of communication messages.

“If we aren’t communicating with the intent to change something – an attitude, a feeling, a behaviour – then we are just creating noise.”


High Performance

It is very important for leaders to coach management into understanding that team member communication is a valuable ingredient in becoming a high performing organisation. Once management grasp this concept, they will assert more time and energy into enhancing their communication skills and strategies. Barrett (2002) discussed that change communication serves three purposes:

  1. “to illustrate effective employee communications in the context of the high-performing organization (one way to get senior management to listen),
  2. to provide an analytical tool to diagnose a company’s communication strengths and weaknesses, and
  3. to frame the change program and the resulting recommendations to improve employee communications so that communication will be positioned to help drive the change.”

Being able to deliver meaningful conversation that inform and educate team members of the change strategy, and also motivate and position team members to support the change, is crucial to ensure success is possible. Barrett (2002) identified five key high performance characteristics, required during a change process, from the book “The Real Change Leaders” by Jon Katzenbach:

  • Committed leadership group
  • Clear performance goals
  • Well-designed playing field
  • Right people in the right places
  • Meaningful communications”

High performing organisations will ensure change communication covers five main goals (Barrett, 2002):

  1. “ensure clear and consistent messages to educate employees in the company vision, strategic goals, and what the change means to them;
  2. motivate employee support for the company’s new direction;
  3. encourage higher performance and discretionary effort;
  4. limit misunderstandings and rumors that may damage productivity; and
  5. align employees behind the company’s strategic and overall performance improvement goals.”

To ensure communication connects with team members, it is important to understand the previous change ability of the organisation. As a leader you need to ensure the change process is achievable, and it is more effective to under-promise and over deliver on key outcomes of the change process.

Being proactive during a change process and providing clear, transparent and supportive communication is central to completing a successful change process. Your ability as a leader to be consistent in your messages and upfront when the journey towards the desired change outcome takes a new path is required for your team members to ‘get on board the bus, sit in the right seat and trust the driver’. 


Anand, J., Barsoux, J., (2017). What Everyone Gets Wrong About Change Management. Harvard Business Review, Nov-Dec 2017. link

Ashkenas, R., (2013). Change Management Needs to Change. Harvard Business Review, Apr 2013. link

Barrett, D.J., (2002). Change Communication: Using Strategic Employee Communication to Facilitate Major Change. Corporate Communication: An International Journal, Vol 7 No. 4. link

Bridges, W., (2017). Strategies for Managing Change. Website. link

Eisenhauer, T., (2017). How to Communicate During Organisational Change. Axerosolutions.com. link

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Immelt, J.R., (2017). How I Remade GE. Harvard Business Review, Sep-Oct 2017. link

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