Blog - MBA in Strategic Leadership at Spring Arbor University

Communicating change: embrace it as an opportunity, not a threat

Change is inevitable for growing organizations. But it can be uncomfortable and adapting to change can often be messy. In order to successfully communicate change within an organization, senior leaders need to relay company goals and strategy to all employees in the most effective way. How? A powerful way to do this is through a strategic narrative that truly engages stakeholders and employees.

Gallup research shows that 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work. Those companies who empower their members with a clear understanding of where the organization is headed and how their daily activities contribute to the success of the organization, consistently outperform the competition.

Strategic narrative is an effective communication tool.

Astrategic narrative focuses on a leader’s ability to articulate a clear and compelling vision and strategy for the future of the organization. Think of it as a written and spoken story of the future. Imagine the before, now and soon-to-be chapters.

Instead of showcasing a series of bullet points and clip art in a PowerPoint deck, a powerful strategic narrative paints a picture of how a company’s past, present, and future fit together in a broader strategy context.

To be effective, strategic narratives are a form of storytelling which need a plot, characters, a climax and a conclusion. This way of relating change can help employees and other stakeholders better understand their place in the larger narrative and how they can take an active role in shaping the future of the organization. In order to direct an organization forward, everyone needs to be rowing in the same direction.

More ways to enhance your approach.

A narrative will position the change in a respectful way. It lets leaders change the direction of the organization without disrespecting the hard work past leaders and employees have put into it.

It will also help leaders to appear more human. Choose your words wisely. Strategic narratives let company leaders bring their own personal stories to the table to ensure the messages hit home with others. When stakeholders relate to you on a personal level, they will be more accepting towards change.

Share the most pertinent information and let your audience know what’s in it for them. When relayed in the right way, stories have the ability to galvanize large numbers of people around a common goal.

An inclusive environment is created when you engage other stakeholders in a dialogue surrounding the strategy. It can align people’s efforts and set the stage for a welcoming environment they can comfortably connect with.

Strategic storytelling can reinforce company values.

A narrative can also drive home the values you want to weave into the fabric of the organization moving forward. It helps employees retain the information by inspiring, motivating and retaining them. The stories actually engage multiple regions of the brain, so stakeholders will absorb the message and be able to see themselves in a bigger context.

Old school communicating is not as effective.

A great story has power, yet most businesses continue to communicate with employees using the dead, abstract language of information-only ‘messaging, while at the same time saying they want to engage and connect with employees. For anyone who wants to create messages that are easily understood, effortless to remember and persuasive to the audience, it’s important to remember that stories are the place to start, and sensory-specific language the way to engage all the parts of the brain.

  1. Share all stakeholder perspectives. Gather team members together to discuss their assumptions and beliefs about what they’ve seen happening within the organization. By tapping them for information, you’ll gain insider knowledge you can use to refine your strategy and make it more relatable. Public companies have in the past made investor communication a priority while their employees may hear about a merger or reorganization on the their car radio while commuting to work. If fear and insecurity rise, a lot of time is wasted getting back to a place of order and understanding. Many people may instead head for their desks to update resumes or call employment recruiters.
  2. Collaborate with your team on a first draft. Work with your team to outline an initial draft, and ask for input from other stakeholders involved in the strategy. That way, you can make sure everyone’s needs and perspectives are taken into account.
  3. Finesse your message. In order to form a strategic narrative, you should assist the group collectively to make sense of the company’s current state and future possibilities. Identify the most appropriate delivery vehicle and situations for sharing the message, and complete a thorough audience analysis to understand their current mindsets and readiness for change.
  4. Measure its success. Remember to continually measure and monitor progress after delivering your narrative to judge its effectiveness and refine your strategy for the future.

Facts and figures are no longer meaningful enough to gain enthusiasm from stakeholders and employees about a big change. Storytelling is a great way to effectively connect knowledge with emotion.

Strategic leadership is ensured through an MBA in Strategic Leadership at Spring Arbor University. This online program will equip you with real-life skills and teach you to challenge the status quo by encouraging divergent, innovative points of view.

SAU graduate student, Sherri Best said, “The Gainey School of Business at Spring Arbor University is unique to any other college I’ve experienced. The business curriculum is centrally focused on ethics, leadership and practical business strategies to solve problems and promote growth within all stakeholders of an organization”.

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