Derek Bishop


Rumour has it

Date added: 07th Jan 2015
Category: Leadership

For any leader seeking to reorganise and yet retain a strong culture the key is to be aware of, and to take steps to counter, those forces which may work against change.

It’s 2015 and that means that electioneering has started in earnest.  Over the next five months we’ll see rumour and counter rumour, promises and clarifications aplenty as the various parties vie for the support of the voting public.  At times the message will seem clear, but on other occasions it may be hard to glean the truth from the morass of claim and counter claim stirred up by journalistic bias.  And whilst the politicians are working hard to get their viewpoint across, the ‘man in the pub said’ factor will also be working hard across both social media and face to face encounters.

All in all, the next few months will provide a fertile ground for anyone who is interested in studying the way in which opinions and attitudes can be swayed by rumour and gossip and how blind reliance on the truth holding sway can prove disastrous.  It’s a lesson which many leaders, not just in politics, would do well to learn, particularly when changes are afoot within an organisation.  From minor promotions to full scale reorganisations and from a technology platform switch to mergers & acquisitions; whatever the change, it has the potential to carry with it the four harbingers of doom in the form of rumour, gossip, inertia and self-interest.

For any leader seeking to reorganise and yet retain a strong culture the key is to be aware of, and to take steps to counter, those forces which may work against change.  And the strongest weapon in the armoury is communication.  Admittedly, when the first delicate manoeuvrings of a potential M&A are in train there is a strong case for discretion but even here, some groundwork amongst trusted colleagues can help to smooth future integration pathways.

M&A confidentiality aside, there is no real reason why leaders should not engage employees in planning for the future and for any changes which this may entail.  Admittedly as companies grow ever larger it may be impractical to rope everyone into a change team but even letting employees know that change is in the offing and then inviting contributions and input can make a significant difference to the outcome.  And yet in far too many instances the first time many employees are made aware of impending changes is when the leadership stand up and announce the change.  So what are the top tips for those leaders who are facing change and want to retain strong employee engagement in the organisation?

  • Involve leaders throughout the organisation. Leaders don’t just sit at the top of an organisation and some don’t even have ‘leader’ in their job description.  By identifying and involving those key people at every level throughout the organisation not only will planning be more organisation-specific, those involved with the planning will be more likely to act as change champions and spread the message in a more positive way.
  • Invite response and feedback. Innovative organisations know that good ideas can come from anywhere so by spreading the word, inviting response and feedback the eventual solution is more likely to be the optimal solution.
  • Be prepared to overcome objections. Anticipation is the name of the game here.  The more you can anticipate potential objections, the more likely you can diffuse dissent at an early stage or even stop dissent from occurring in the first place.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Back up initial announcements with more information, have key individuals primed to cascade follow-up facts and to host discussion groups, have training already set in place for those who may need it, be prepared to host follow-up conference calls or discussions.  But more importantly, wherever possible communicate in advance and communicate regularly.  Quite simply, the more people feel involved and informed the more they will engage with the solution.

Rumour only holds sway when people feel disenfranchised.  It can be defeated and at the same time leaders can strengthen engagement within the organisation by simply engaging, informing and involving people in change.  Yes leaders lead, but they only do so effectively by bringing the hearts and minds of their team with them.

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