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  • Writer's pictureSeema Sutradhar

In change, listening is key. ‘lis-t-en’ is in ‘sil-en-t’

We all know listening is fundamental to communication. If we do not listen carefully, we miss the point. How important is this in an organisational change project? A change project is successful only when people are able to connect to the change at an individual level and finally when a critical mass adopts it. The change is visualised by the leadership team, and it percolates top down in an organisation. It is crucial that the vision is understood by all as it is intended to be and most importantly in their local context. But the reality of communication is the ‘telephone’ game.

If all do not understand the vision or purpose for change in the true sense, the project will fail at the very first place. In change, you need to ensure that you listen to the stakeholders. Truly listen, to identify if the message has been understood as it was intended to be. While listening to you will pick up a lot more information, basically the feedback, concerns and may be some better ideas on implementation. When you listen to stakeholders, it makes them feel part of the change. When their concerns are heard, they feel included rather than feeling that they are simply being directed to change. They understand better how the change impacts them locally and are able to contribute to the decisions that further impact them. Having a channel to communicate upwards right from the start of the project and throughout the journey makes a huge difference to all. A simplistic example as a mother I have experienced it time and again when my kids don’t accept a rule in the beginning. So I prepare myself for a dialogue with them to explain the reasons behind it and listen to their views and concerns. I also invite them to give solutions to the underlying problem. These discussions are not easy and many times I feel like giving up! It’s a real challenge to discuss on solutions but this has been an effective way to get across the message and get their consensus. Making the rule tick, gets far easier from there on. Same is true in the organisational change project.

Change is not easy. You need to establish two-way communication. In a change project, you can do this using your network of local managers, change agents and the change leadership too. The key is to be authentic and inclusive. Help them see the problem as one of their own at the same time be empathic to their concerns. When it is a problem of theirs and they have a say in the solution, they start to see an individual connection to the vision. Having a say in the solution does not mean saying against the vision or the strategy but having a say in the decisions that affect them locally.

Listening helps to get a better consensus on change and far more active participation. It helps people see the vision in their local context and thus connect to it. Listening with empathy, being authentic and inclusive makes them feel like part of the change journey. If this is done correctly, the rest gets easier from there on. It is then about promoting learning and providing adequate coaching and support to help them overcome knowledge and skill gap. With some tracking and a bit of reinforcement, you will be able to take the majority to adopt the change in true sense.

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