In far too many organizations, major change efforts focus on the negative: “It’s broken and we need to fix it.” But while it's vital to tell the truth about why change is needed, it’s also essential to honor past achievements and recognize progress as it occurs. Celebrating success is a key role for leaders, and one they are usually happy to play, once they understand its importance. Here are three ways to help.

 

Counsel leaders on how employees experience change. More than 80 percent of employees are initially resistant to change, partially because they experience change initiatives as a criticism of their work. (“You say this system/process is broken. But I’ve been doing this job this way for years. So what you’re really saying is that my work is bad.”)

The more leaders understand employees’ anxiety and insecurity, the more successful you will be at convincing leaders to take a smart and sustained approach to change communication.

Shape messages to balance creating a compelling case for change, while honoring past achievements. Unless your organization is teetering on the edge of collapse, it is still doing many things right—and has a strong foundation of successes. When you create change messages for leaders, find ways to tell both sides of the story: what's strong and needs to continue, and what needs to be changed to ensure that the company will prosper in the future.

Spearhead an effort to tie recognition programs to change. Most communication groups do not “own” organizational recognition programs, so this may require collaboration with human resources, the office of the CEO, or other functions and the support of leaders. But it’s critical to recognize progress in change as it occurs—and to pay tribute to employees who are taking initiative or simply doing what needs to be done in a time of turmoil. (Too many established programs recognize attributes that are at odds with change—length of service, for example, when the organization is trying to become more innovative.)

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