When Does Leadership Support Become Saturation? 5 Ways to Engage Leaders Effectively in Change.

Every change management expert will tell you that Leadership support and sponsorship is key to effecting true change. But, how much is too much? Do very vocal leaders inspire eye rolls instead of compliance? Do they tune people in or tune them out?

There is a sweet spot between active leadership sponsorship and leadership saturation. For most of us, this is never a question. We strive very hard to get leaders on board, get their buy-in, get them to integrate key messages into all-employee venues, team meetings and corporate updates. But, sometimes, messages get delivered too often or just too often by the same person. People can start to ignore the message.

Most of us in the Communication profession would rather have over-communication than under-communication. I, personally, would rather have someone tell me: “OK. OK. I got it,” than “Wow. This is the first time I am hearing about this!”

But who delivers the message is critical to successful change. If the message only comes from the top then that’s when the sighs, furrowed brows and cynicism can come about. But, when messages are delivered from the top and reinforced at every level of the organization, then it becomes healthy saturation.

Below are 5 tips for engaging and leveraging leaders in change communication:

  1. Kick it off. Having a leader send an initial email, announce during a corporate event or share during employee focus groups is the best way to engage the executive level in change. Having an executive set the stage initially improves the credibility in why we are making the change.
  2. Say it Quarterly. Asking executives to reinforce quarterly until adoption is realized will help keep the message/initiative alive. “One and done” messaging doesn’t work.  However, monthly tends to become a stale, broken record if the same executive and only this executive does all the talking.
  3. Give shout-outs. During quarterly updates, a great way to reinforce is to recognize those adopters – teams or individuals. It is important to ensure that the recognition is around real business value and that the “same people” do not get recognized. You know who these people are. The ones that are always on stage getting the gold medal. Try and encourage the recognition of new people – teams that may not always get in the spotlight. This will help dispel any thoughts of this being an executive’s “pet project”.
  4. Pass the torch. Asking executives to inform their teams to reinforce the message is critical. If the message is only from the top, you may get skepticism. When all leaders down the line are saying the same thing, people will start to get it. Fresh voices help keep the message fresh!
  5. DIY – Do It Yourself. This may be trite but it is true. The quickest path to cynicism is when a leader expects something of the team but doesn’t comply him/herself. This may be simple but it is the single most important step a leader can take to ensure successful change.

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