We were at the 4-way stop. The one at the edge of town, always busy with several cars lined up in each direction.
Straight through the stop sign to access the local farmer’s market. A right turn earns a peaceful afternoon at one of several local wineries. Turn left and quickly arrive at a gas station and loop back into civilization.
It’s one of those intersections where you hope at least 3 drivers are paying attention.
Alot of people.
Alot of choices.
Alot of movement.
Many accidents have occurred at this concrete patch. Most times as a result of a driver wrongly predicting the moves of another driver.
Yesterday, as my husband and I were waiting our turn at this popular junction, sure enough, one of the drivers neglected to use a blinker – the turn signal to let the other 3 drivers know of her intentions. My husband commented, “traffic sure flows better when people just remember to use their blinkers!” Yep.
Interestingly enough, no horns blared, no shaking fists or other gestures flew out of car windows, just a massive “tentativeness” permeated the area. For the next 2 sets of drivers navigating their turns, hesitation, unsurety, and a lack of trust regarding intentions clogged the area.
Was the driver going to turn or go straight? The right turn signal is on – does he mean it? Can I trust the signal or lack of a signal? Is he going to go straight after all or did he forget to use the blinker and is about to turn?
People ended up, well – stuck.
This same thing happens in organizations – businesses, schools, churches, (families too) when “the driver,” otherwise called “leader,” neglects to signal a “lane change,” “turn” or any other change in direction.
When we neglect to clearly share our intentions, we leave people wondering, tentative, and unsure about their next steps. Sometimes even bigger issues are ignited – Trust Issues. And once the trust foundation is shaken, the workload doubles as you have to repair trust and still drive the required change.
Just like at the 4 way stop,intentions are honorable. People just get in a hurry and forget. So before you start the change process, a quick reminder.
Remember the 3 Cs:
1. Communicate Early.
Let people know what is coming, when things are going to happen and how it will affect them and or their jobs. Save surprises for gifts – not communication. Use the 5Ws and H framework: What is happening,When is it going to happen, Where is the change occurring, Who is it going to impact and very important – Why is it necessary and HOW will it affect them personally. Starting off with this framework ensures movement and flow.
2. Communicate Frequently.
Research states it takes 7 times for a leader to communicate a change for people to understand it – so get comfy. The first time, is for you to hear it, second time, you learn it. The third time – they hear it the first time and by the time you have communicated the change 7 times, they begin to get on-board. One CEO pushed back when he heard this, “I expect my kids to only have to hear it once – you are saying I have to tell my organization 7 times?” Yep.
If you get bored, count the times you have communicated so you can cross them off your list – when you get to 7 it’s real.
(FYI, the CEO that pushed back, tried the new way of communicating change to his family and they reported a direct increase in family harmony!)
3. Communicate Clearly.
Be clear about the direction and message before you type the first email, hold the first meeting or make the first phone call to begin communicating it. Figure out the direction you want to go ahead of time, so by the time you signal to start the process, you are not changing your signals at the last minute and stopping traffic flow.
Servant -leaders, when driving change must remain consistent and clear. They must not change leadership style based on the changing situation or authenticity and trust will be breached. Situational communication is what is required. Not, situational leadership.
Before embarking on your new path, check your blinkers, remember the 3 Cs and you will sail through the intersections!
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