Select the right words. Say them well.


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New ways of thinking and changing the way someone does their job or approaches their work can be a mountain to climb. You can expect comments like “What, we’re changing things? What’s wrong with the way we’ve been doing it? I was just getting used to the way we do it now!” But the reality is leaders often must call “the meeting” where a new reality is introduced. Those meetings can be some of the most important gatherings you’ll ever hold, so having a great game plan is critical.

Here are some thoughts:

Know the atmosphere: Realize that while you’ve been thinking about and dealing with this change for a while, it’s new to most or all of your audience. Ease into the topic by first addressing change as an issue. Have the people in the room think about how they view change in general. You can also point out how much change is part of our lives today. (Every piece of technology you interact with is constantly updating and evolving, and most days we manage to keep up.)

Address the elephant in the room: This is one of the most common pieces of advice I offer, because it is critical, especially in these circumstances. The person introducing the change has to acknowledge that this can be challenging and it may throw people off a bit. Just how you word this message will depend upon the culture of your workplace. It may be a tough love message of, “Yea, I know this isn’t your favorite thing, but we have to do this to move ahead so get over it,” or “This is a significant change and we’ll be here for you each step of the way to make sure it works.” The key is figure out how this message needs to be delivered in the most productive way.

Paint an accurate picture: Most people will go along with a reasonable idea if they think you are being straight with them. If there are complex parts associated with the change, acknowledge that fact. You actually build credibility when you talk about the hard stuff, because most of us struggle with that part. Embrace the hard stuff and let people know you understand it, but that you’ve also thought about those challenges and how you will try to address them.

Give it some time: With any change, there will be a phase-in period. (It may be few days or a few months, but there will be window of time no matter how “instant” the change.) Realize not everyone will handle it the same, and some will not make the adjustment at all. It comes with the territory. Plans have to be made knowing that – transitions have to be anticipated and job re-assignments considered.

New ideas are part of our world. Change is ever present and that won’t change. What CAN change is how we present new ideas so they have the very best chance of success. Make a plan, understand your audience and realize you can set this new chapter on a successful path if you make the correct first steps.


Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer


Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: