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Education and Career

How to Successfully Launch — and Sell — Your Vision of Change: 5 Keys for Leaders

office employees

In Disney’s The Mandalorian, during the credits they show the concept sketches that were used to envision the episode prior to production. I’m captivated by the incredible artistry — so much so that I’ve bought a few of the Star Wars art books. Notes from the artists reveal an important insight into leading change.

Producers share their ideas — possibly just a few bullets — of what an episode will be about, often well before the manuscript has even begun. Artists begin crafting their vision of what the producer is trying to portray. Thus begins a dance between producers and artists: producers provide feedback that shapes the direction of the concept art, and artists influence producers with innovative and outlandish portrayals of scenes and characters. Each influences the other. 

When launching a change, leaders know where they want to go, but haven’t sorted out all the details yet. They have a handful of bullets describing the destination and forge ahead with a launch communication featuring key facts and pie charts meant to communicate the necessity of change. 

But to the employee, it’s not all that exciting. Numbers speak volumes to execs, but it’s the image of the future that moves people to take interest, engage, and push the boundaries of change. 

The reality is that we are like concept artists trying to lay an image over the facts of the proposed change. Some picture disaster and pain along the way. Others see smiling customers receiving a product or service they couldn’t have before. 

Which would you prefer them to see?

When I work with executives to launch change in a way that communicates with clarity and motivates people to buy in, we use five key ingredients: 

Who What When Why Where

Before people can choose to buy in, they need the basic facts of the change. Answer the easy questions for them:

  • What is going to happen? Where are we going?
  • Who is involved? Me?
  • Why are we doing this?
  • When will this begin? When will we get there?

Paint the Picture

Facts are good, but what does the future actually look and feel like? What will it sound like, even smell like? Pick up the paintbrush and use different colors to illustrate the goal with rich detail: that converts a vague and unsettling goal into something employees can envision being a part of. 

Tell a Story

The best paintings communicate something bigger. They tell a story. How will a day in the life of a customer or employee be different in the future, when the change is complete? What is better? What makes them smile? Walk them through it. Present a conversation from the other side of the change. Move the change from an abstract notion to an interaction with people they can relate to.

When Star Wars artists attempt to visualize a producer’s ideas, they never get it right on the first pass. Versions range into the hundreds for critical scenes. You won’t get it perfect the first time either. 

I work closely with leaders to design narratives that encapsulate all the detail they need to convey, wrapped in a storyline that elicits positive emotions. Who doesn’t want to make someone’s life better? Who doesn’t want to help a child smile, or a customer feel like they just got the best deal in the business?

Tap into the OBF (Office Buzz Factor)

Employees are constantly exchanging information. It forms a ‘white noise’ in the background I call the Office Buzz Factor. When you paint that picture of the future, there will be questions as stakeholders try to process what they are hearing. Typically, the OBF spikes as they address questions to one another rather than leaders. You may or may not hear the buzz at the coffee station or in the chat apps, but If people aren’t coming to you with questions you need to go to them. 

Ask my favorite question when meeting with employees: “What is on people’s minds?” Make no mistake, you are going to hear what’s on the speaker’s mind, whether it reflects collective thought or not. Asking about community sentiment provides a bit of ‘safety in numbers’ when relaying negative feedback like, “People just aren’t getting it. They don’t see how this will help the company.” 

That’s exactly the type of honesty you need to hear, and it provides the input needed to revise the picture you are painting. 

Give Employees the Brush.

But here’s the good news. When we make it safe for employees to give us feedback, we open the door for them to contribute. We can have a discussion about the future — and within that dialogue, they can help shape and sharpen the image. Their questions help leaders add meaningful detail. 

Star Wars artists testify to the same process. When the producer outlines a vision for an episode it is the beginning of a conversation which spawns many iterations of that vision along the way. The producer knows the goal, but surrenders the paintbrush to the artists to fill in the details. They do not just accept the goal as final, but help to shape it along the way.

Again and again, we see how imagery and storytelling inspire action. We are moved by the stories of others. They create inspiring images in our minds. 

As you consider a change you are about to launch or are in the midst of leading, reflect on the picture you are painting and who is involved in bringing it to light. It may be time for a new canvas. 

Written by Jeff Skipper.
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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Education and Career - How to Successfully Launch — and Sell — Your Vision of Change: 5 Keys for Leaders
Jeff Skipper
Jeff Skipper is an international change leadership consultant for organizations in energy, finance, technology, and other industries. For over twenty-five years, beginning with a twelve-year career at IBM, he has guided change projects by focusing on the people side of change. As CEO he grew a transformation services company to seven figures in just five years. He and his family live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. His new book is Dancing with Disruption: Leading Dramatic Change During Global Transformation.

Jeff Skipper is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website CLICK HERE.