June 17, 2009
One of the common mistakes people make when designing a change program is assuming that if a person is a team leader, supervisor or senior manager they should naturally know how to communicate face to face with their teams. However communication skills are rarely one of the key competencies that is taught or measured by organizations. There is however a very easy way to ensure that there is structure and content that make it very easy for managers at all levels to follow.
What is needed is structure and process and team briefing which is a formal communication cascading process via management is a tool that perfectly fits the bill. It has three levels of cascading messages:
- The first is the CEO who at his executive team briefings decides which topics for that week he wants communicated to employees.
- This is then circulated out to his direct reports who then have to communicate those issues and decide the top 5 issues for their respective divisions and then finally the top 5 issues for their teams.
- So the only aspect of a team brief that changes is the last section which is how what is happening in the company and our division relates to the work we are doing in our team. This is the section that always changes depending on your team in the division.
The reason this works is simple. The only aspect a manager has to think about is what is happening in the organization that will effect his team that week or month depending on the frequency of the team briefing process. The rest of the information is already determined by the divisional head and the CEO. The team brief should only take around 15 minutes so it can be incorporated into a regular team meeting. And most importantly it is constant as the CEO has his Executive team meeting dates set for the entire year and this ensures that everyone from the Executive team to the frontline know what is happening in the organization.
The key factor to the success of team briefings is that they are driven by the CEO. Whenever your CEO talks with managers and employees he should ask whether they had in fact attended a team briefing and how regularly they occured.This way if they are not he can say to his direct reports, “I am conducting my team brief with you now so there is no excuse for you not to do the same with your team members”.
So these are the keys to making Team Briefings work.
- Make sure that you put in place a simple process
- Make sure that the CEO drives it and that his direct reports understand the importance to the CEO – not you. Afterall you are not their boss, he is.
- Ensure that the topics are the type of content that management are comfortable and knowledgeable about
- Provide a feedback loop, again this is part of the process, if there is a question that management do not know the answer to, there must be a formal easy process for them to follow to quickly obtain the answer and respond to the employee.
- Team briefings should only take 15 minutes, they can also be incorporated into regular weekly meetings.
When it comes to cascading information in a face to face format via management remember that as with anything, there will be some topics that employees want to hear directly from the CEO and other topics they are happy to hear from their manager. Generally when it comes to significant issues such as retrenchments, closure of offices and mergers or acquisitions employees generally want to hear this from the person at the top. Day to day, week by week and month by month operational issues they are comfortable in hearing from their manager who manages their daily work.
Marcia Xenitelis is a recognized authority on the subject on change management and has spoken at conferences around the world. For access to case studies and more information on the types of strategies you can implement to engage employees visit http://www.changemanagementtips.com for a wealth of free informative articles and resources.