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6. How to talk about organisational change: tips 6-10

Written by Rachel Green, Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute, accredited user of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional-Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and international leader in emotional intelligence coaching.

Emotional intelligence and EQ can be used to increase the efficiency in bringing about organisational change. How can emotional intelligence and EQ help?

By giving you the tools you need to handle the up and down emotions people will feel when undergoing change.

So often the emotions are ignored or resented by the people implementing change. This is not helpful or emotionally intelligent.

All humans have an emotional reaction to change. Rather than resenting, ignoring or trying to stop the emotions, emotional intelligence and EQ skills can help you work with them.

This is the second article in a two-part series on the applications of emotional intelligence to managing change.

The first article covered EQ tips 1-5. This second article covers EQ tips 6-10. Here are the five extra tips.

EQ and change tip 6: Avoid the cliches and rhetoric

Please talk everyday language and not bureaucratic speak. Phrases such as "Grow our business", or "The bottom line", or "In the best interests of all concerned" are overdone. They are so well worn that people switch off to what you are saying. People have change fatigue.

Use fresh language, positive language, original language that inspires. People look for genuine, honest, trusting leadership during change, so speak as a real person to real people, do not hide behind jargon or bureaucratic words.

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EQ and change tip 7: "But" is toxic

Do not join a positive and a negative comment with "but" or "however".

The words "but", "however" and "although" can all negate what has been said in the preceding sentence.

If you say something like, "The company is completely committed to maintaining our stores in country areas but there will be some sites where ...", it is hard to believe that the company is totally committed to maintaining country stores.

Resilience is a key part of change. You need to be emotionally resilient if you are managing the changes, and your people need to be emotionally resilient to survive it.

EQ and change tip 8: Credit your staff with brains!

Your staff are not stupid and can see through glib statements that you may make. This is especially so if they have been through numerous changes already. If this is their fourth restructure, their third name change, the fifth amalgamation, the fourth budget cut - why would you not acknowledge this?

Expect their cynicism and do not try to cover over what is happening with what appear to be false promises.

By acknowledging their cynicism you are building trust and showing emotionally intelligent leadership.

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EQ and change tip 9: Deliver bad news kindly

If people are having their jobs restructured, if there is downsizing, if they are going to have to justify or reapply for their jobs, introduce the topic kindly and acknowlegde the emotions. People's faith in you may be smashed if you don't.

Once faith, trust and loyalty are gone do not expect to get productive, positive work from your employees.

I know of people who have been told brutally by management, "Your jobs are gone. You can prepare a 15 minute presentation to say why you should be kept if you want to."

This is appalling management and not demonstrating any significant degree of emotional intelligence. Expect an angry unco-operative workforce with a low morale and high turnover, all of which is a waste of money, if you do this.

Build don't destroy their resilience. I recommend these Emotional Resileince DVDS, MP3s and ebook to you - they contain many practical ways to build emotional resilience. I have used all the techniques that they cover and know they work. 

EQ and change tip 10: Say goodbye to the endings

Of all the competencies on the Genos emotional intelligence model, the ability to understand the emotions of others, was found to be the most important dimension for successful leaders. How good are you at understanding and validating the emotions of your staff?

You need to be good at it, especially during times of change. If you don't yet have the skills, gain them.

Managing people is no longer just about technical skills. It is no longer just about facts and figures. Managing people successfully means managing emotions successfully.

There are many NORMAL emotions that your staff will have during a change process. Not "may have" but "will have". They are predictable.

One of the emotions that occurs when something ends in an organisaton: be it an identity, a peer group, or a building, is a sense of loss. A sense of loss can produce feelings of sadness, grief and dismay, for example.

Allowing your staff to grieve, to acknowledge the loss(es), and to say goodbye, can be part of an emotionally intelligent and healthy response to change and transition.

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