Change leaders with empathy are aware that this difficult period in world history has placed sizeable burdens on people’s shoulders and eroded their trust on multiple fronts. We highlight three ways (all communication-related) in which leaders can gain the trust of their crews as they head into 2022.
It is probably safe to say that every single person on the planet is now living in some degree of cognitive dissonance all the time. This state is defined by Verywell Mind as “the mental discomfort that results from holding two or more conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes simultaneously”.
When a leader takes the stance of empathy and puts themselves in their coworkers’ shoes, it becomes clear that the sources of this dissonance are endless in this global pandemic world.
People are being bombarded daily with health warnings, conflicting information, fake news, dire forecasts, and shifting goalposts in all facets of their lives – personal, civic, and professional. They fear for their own wellbeing, and the safety and futures of their children, and they are processing grief born of so many losses – both big and small.
Yet in the midst of all this, with this somewhat jaded and war-weary crew, you are attempting to guide the ship of your organization through the storm and on to wonderful destinations for the benefit of all. Your crew has taken huge strain (and so have you), but in many ways this makes the success of your change leadership efforts even more important.
The fact that a person’s willingness to change is inextricably linked to their trust and belief in the leadership of their organization has been affirmed by many thought leaders.
If we continue with the ship-in-a-storm analogy, a crew that doesn’t trust its captain will reach the point of “each for themselves” and likely end up acting at odds with one another in a bid to survive. However, if a captain is trusted and engaged with the crew, a loyalty emerges that will get behind the captain’s leadership wholeheartedly, even when the course has to be radically altered and the route to be taken is not found on any map.
Here are three simple (though perhaps not easy) ways that change leaders can gain the trust of their fellow crew members:
Here are three of them for you to consider:
1. Drop the Jargon
Jargon emerges all too easily in any professional setting. Of course, it has the benefit of creating a sense of “belonging” amongst those who use the lingo. But this benefit is overshadowed by the risks associated with jargon usage.
For one, the use of excessive jargon has come to be seen as a potential sign of insecurity on the part of the jargon user. Whether justified or not, when people suspect that a leader is hiding their own lack of understanding or direction behind a wall of jargon, they lose trust in that leader. Jargon also has the tendency to alienate people from one another as they may have slightly different understandings of jargon terms used.
As Patti Sanchez of Duarte highlighted in a recent Change Cultivators podcast episode, words matter! The words that leaders choose do more than simply convey facts. They can alienate or include and should be mindfully considered.
The Harvard Business Review suggests four ways to address the issue of jargon in the workplace:
- Assess your context to see whether jargon is helping or harming your leadership efforts,
- See whether there is a simpler, more direct way in which you can convey key concepts to your colleagues,
- Set the tone for the organization as a whole by ensuring that communications from top leadership are free of jargon, and
- Make it explicit why your organization avoids jargon in the workplace.
2. Align Communication Efforts
Change enthusiast Cassandra Worthy, in a Change Cultivators podcast episode with Patrick Fitzmaurice and Rozzyn Boy, highlighted that people are very sensitive to three different types of communication in the workplace: what they hear, what they read, and what they see modelled and enacted. Belief and trust are eroded when there is inconsistency between these different communication types.
Research has shown that it is far better for change leaders to over-communicate than under-communicate during times of flux. In your bid to win trust, pay attention to whether the different forms of communication in your organization are conveying the same message consistently and continuously.
3. Walk the Talk
The final point in this post flows naturally from the previous one. The third type of “communication” that Cassandra Worthy highlighted was the actions that people see modelled by their coworkers and leaders in the workplace.
This point deserves an extra moment’s reflection as it cuts through to the ever-important issue of authenticity and transparency in leadership. Perhaps for a time it will be possible to, in the interests of the alignment discussed above, deliberately and overtly enact and model what is being communicated by leaders to the workforce.
But over time, if leaders themselves are not utterly committed to the change vision they are casting, the cracks and inconsistencies will begin to show, and the allegiance of your crew will be the casualty. Hypocritical leaders annihilate the trust of their colleagues and sabotage their own best change leadership efforts in the process.
As the festive season hopefully affords everyone a few moments’ respite to breathe and reflect, pondering these three points could greatly enhance your bid to win the trust of your team as 2022 looms large in all its unknown and unpredictable splendour.
There may be times ahead where you will need to make a leadership call that seems utterly counterintuitive to the people around you. The only thing that will keep your ship on course and prevent mutiny in those moments is trust that has been diligently built ahead of time.
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