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Emotional Literacy and Change

Dana Williams CYT, MBA

If you want to make enemies, try to change something.

—Woodrow Wilson

Strategy before Tactics

The decision has been made: Now what do you do? How can you get everyone else on board?

Effective communication sets the tone for the change program and is critical to execution. Everyone should have communication policies in place in order to make all stakeholders understand why the change is occurring, who will be affected, what the change program is intended to accomplish, and how long it will take.

For an organization to be change ready, we need three things in place:

• Effective leadership is in place at all levels in the organization: You need solid, loyal intermediaries to reinforce a consistent message

• Employees that are personally motivated to change: This happens when people are fairly unhappy with the current state of affairs and are willing to accept the risks involved in doing something new

• The Culture is conducive to working collaboratively: Effective change demands collaboration between willing and motivated parties

Delivering the message

There is no such thing as over-communicating information about a change effort. Effective and ongoing communiqué is absolutely critical throughout all phases of a change program. When crafting your messages, be sure to use a diverse set of communication channels. In addition to staff meetings and e-mails, consider other approaches to disseminating information via newsletters, hosted events, or an intranet site with interactive videos and tutorials -all devoted to issues surrounding the change effort. Consider using cost effective tools such as Animoto or Sliderocket. The goal is to generate as many communications as necessary to get the message of the change program across.

The Value of Honest Communication

One who shows a high degree of right communication will not fail in his actions.

— Yoga Sutra 2:36 by Patanjali

Some individuals will be more affected by change projects than others, which might lead to fear-generating assumptions. Fear and uncertainty tend to paralyze the work culture and stall its efforts. You can circumvent these negative sentiments by providing the facts as they are known. Be straightforward and honest about the change program—even if it contains bad news. Also, be sure to inform your stakeholders that certain things won’t change—and explain exactly what will remain consistant throughout the effort. This will help calm anxious employees.

Emotional Literacy and Change

Shawn Kent Hayashi, an executive coach and CEO of The Professional Group, states that “perhaps on the surface, emotion has no place in business, but that is unrealistic. People are influenced by emotions, but star performers and great communicators have some mastery of those emotions. They are emotional intelligent, able to process their own emotions and self-regulate even in upsetting circumstances, and they connect well in conversations, or with crowds, with their ability to inspire, motivate, and engage”.

Kent further elaborates that an emotionally intelligent person tends to have 5 main qualities:

• Self-awareness: Knowing what one feels in the moment.

• Self-regulation: Those who choose how they respond in all types of situations

• Motivation: Playing to one’s own passions, skills and abilities

• Empathy: The ability to identify what someone else feels, and use that ability to create rapport

• Social Skills: The ability to work in a group and align members towards progress

Above all, make communication an ongoing, two-way proposition. While it is important to share information, it is equally important to listen to what others have to say. Take the time to ask employees how they are doing and how they perceive the change program initiatives. Listening to their concerns and different points of view will help you keep everyone motivated and invested in the change program.

Tips for empowering employees to change

• Demonstrate trust and respect for employees—and do it regularly.

• Encourage innovative thinking.

• Be flexible, and demonstrate that flexibility to others.

• Encourage risk-taking and be tolerant of failures.

• Spread decision-making authority around.

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