Monday, 9 November 2009

Communicate, communicate, communicate...

Communicate, communicate, the mantra of all effective change leaders. We know, and have recently experienced, that in the absence of any communication rumours start and circulate. Those rumours may or may not be based on 'truth' and certainly get transmogrified as the Chinese Whisper process affects them.

The message to us governors, as strategic leaders in our schools, is that we need to be proactive about communicating. This matters especially during any period of uncertainty or change. The need goes so far as to issue bulletins (or whatever) explaining that 'nothing has happened or changed'. This latter is counter-intuitive as our tendency is to only communicate when we have something to say.

Finally, when the rumours DO start - avoid scapegoating and witch-hunts. It's almost inevitable that legitimate and often informal discussions 'leak' into the public domain and get turned into rumours. Seeking out and punishing 'the guilty' will just close down communications channels and lead to disaffection in those who we most need to be open.

I have long had a set of principles for communicating during change:

• Those most affected will be the first to hear
• Our people will hear things first from their managers
• We will use multiple channels to communicate with our people
• “One hymn, one hymn sheet”
• We will be as quick to give any bad news as the good
• We will be as open as possible
• Face-to-face will be our preferred route for all major communications
• Wherever possible we will avoid jargon, where not possible we will explain it
• Individuals making decisions will have personal accountability for ensuring that those affected by the decision are communicated with effectively
• We will ensure that there is an unfiltered feedback route from our people to the top team
• There will be regular updates on progress
• We recognise the existence of The Grapevine and will try to be sure that it deals in facts not fiction

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