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Tips for communication in change management


How to help staff respond to reforms is a major challenge for managers

Reforms in the aged care sector can be overwhelming and how managers talk about these changes with staff can ultimately determine their level of resilience, writes Lindsay Tighe.

One of the biggest challenges facing aged care managers is knowing how to support their staff to respond in a positive and practical way to the reforms happening in the sector.

Engaging and enabling staff to be resilient through change is not easy and it requires managers to draw on a range of skills in order to be effective.

One vital aspect is the way we talk to staff, yet in my experience not enough priority is placed on communication.

Typically, one of the biggest mistakes that aged care facility managers make in their communication is that, unconsciously, they do too much telling and fixing and not enough asking.

While there is no doubt that managers in their roles as change agents have to provide answers, doing too much of this often can create disengaged and disempowered team members who are resistant and demotivated.

Good leadership during change involves sharing the new vision and providing relevant and timely information to staff.

However, there is often a tendency by managers, if they are not aware, to take over and end up assuming all the responsibility, in which case staff become passive and unhappy.

Managers who practice asking better questions will get better results by enabling staff to be more involved and responsible in the change process.

This approach will also better enable their team to be more resilient during this time.

There are many good questions that can be asked in different situations which will enable better outcomes (see table below).

It’s important to note that this is not just about asking questions – two critical components need to be in place for this to work.

First, there needs to be a genuine desire to empower and engage people in this process – this is not just a lip service exercise. Therefore, the way you ask the questions is more important than the question itself.

Second, we need to have an inherent belief in people’s ability to manage and deal with change. As Plato said: “We all have innate wisdom, we just need to be asked the right question.” Our role as managers is to access and draw out that wisdom through asking better questions.

Periods of change are not usually easy to manage and it demands more from managers if they are to effectively engage people in the process and achieve better outcomes.

Situation

Good questions to ask

After announcing the change How are you feeling about this? (Best asked individually rather than to a group)

What issues do you see with what I have just shared? How do you think these can be overcome?

What would you like to be responsible for? OR Who will be responsible for what actions?

What is the best way of managing this change so that we feel good about it?

To get people to be motivated about what is happening What aspect of this excites you? How can you be more involved in this aspect?

What needs to happen for you to feel motivated about this?

How can we get the best result possible here?

How can you/we stay motivated through this change?

When sensing someone is unhappy How are you feeling about this?

What needs to happen for you to feel more positive about this?

What help or support might you need to feel more positive?

When you want to help someone/the team  to be more resilient to change What can you do to feel better about what is happening?

What can I do to help or support you?

If something could be changed to make you feel better what would that be?

As a team, what do we need to do to support each other to manage this as best we can?

Lindsay Tighe is the founder of Better Questions and an executive coach, speaker, trainer and author.

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