Archive for the 'Tough conversations' Category

Approaching redundancy with care

Some of you may have heard about Aviva’s recent faux pas when they accidentally sacked 1300 members of staff in 1 quick tap on the key board. A calamity for the HR department responsible for sending an email to 1300 people asking them to pack their bags and leave the building, when really it should have gone to just one person. Surely though, irrespective of the mistake of getting the audience wrong, is sacking by email really an acceptable way of letting staff go?

For anyone involved in Change Management, HR or Communications, the how and when of communicating redundancies often creates a high level of tension and discussion. The choices of who should communicate the message, how it should be communicated and when, always bring out different personal views and different cultural perspectives. Often those involved in making the decisions are influenced by either previous personal experiences or seeing what has worked or not worked in different organisations.

In all cases, I would encourage the decision makers to take a step back when thinking about the redundancy strategy. The decisions should be based on:

Being consistent with the Corporate values

Recognising that everyone who becomes and ex employee will be an advocate or an opponent and will build or damage your brand

Putting yourself in the shoes of those receiving the news

I am sure that if these 3 things are considered then the approach to communicating redundancy would change in many organisations. And more often than not the reasons for using short cuts (like sending an email) or impersonal and often fear based approaches would be shown up as being inconsiderate and unnecessary.

Whilst making people redundant is a difficult experience for all involved, I have seen it work well in organisations so people leave with their dignity intact. My hope is that more organisations will consider the big picture before getting in to a debate about the process.

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Asking the million dollar question

In my work I’m lucky to collaborate with some great people who have an attitude of wanting to do things differently. Inevitably I am working with them because they want to do something different in the way they communicate; this opens up a plethora of opportunities for the way they communicate as an organisation, a team or individually.

Working one on one with leaders we often reach a point where we are exploring strategies that will engage other people; in most cases this comes down to asking the million dollar question or questions.

Let’s take a typical situation……..You are about to have a team meeting and want to gain commitment from the team to take a particular direction e.g to manage something that is changing, increase performance or engage new customers. Before you go in to this meeting you know that there are likely to be some tensions, emotion and resistance. You know the team should be involved in forming the outcome yet you’re feeling uncertain about how to handle the meeting. What do you do?

Often the starting point for leaders is to find ways to avoid a discussion about the emotions or the elephants in the room and to shift in to TELL mode. This is a strategy used by many to reach an outcome which on the surface may appear to have reached commitment. For some it then comes as a surprise when the required actions to deliver on the change, the performance improvement or the new customer, don’t happen.

For the leader an alternative path to take before you go in to the meeting could include:
– Planning the parts of your meeting
– Planning what you will say to set the context for the change
– Mapping out the real or potential issues and hot spots
– Thinking about the million dollar questions you will ask

Probably the most difficult part is to think about the relevant million dollar questions and in particular how to use these questions. What ever your million dollar questions are, you are looking for the questions that:
– Involve people in the discussion
– Allow people to give their opinions
– Create a safe space for issues to be raised
– Move the team towards a collective outcome

Inevitably, your million dollar questions will need to be open questions – the How, What, Where, When and Why questions. On top of this, they need to be open questions with thought. Asking “Why aren’t you committed to this?” is likely to create a more defensive or negative response than asking “What do you need to commit to these changes?”

For many, finding the million dollar questions is hit and miss. To hit more than you miss will take practice and awareness; the planning steps mentioned above will help you to go from random shots to thoughtful engagement.