Don’t overcommunicate

You’ve been told in management schools or leadership trainings that you never communicate enough. Yet, the story might be different with culture shaping. Indeed, the most important thing when you want to change behaviours of people at scale, is to make sure the behaviours you want to see are being exemplified. If they are not, any form of communication will be counterproductive. To the eyes of your culture, communication is suspicious by nature. Communication or training do not change behaviours.

When your company values are strong, so strong that people live them all the time, then why would you need to put them on the walls? If you do hang values and expected behaviours on too many walls, it becomes a form of advertisement. As if you are trying to ‘sell’ them to your employees. By doing that, you are actually saying: “people, we are not behaving this way today, but we want you to”. Make it compulsory, like in a “code of conduct” or a “training”, and it makes it even worse!… What people hear their private voice say to them, and this phenomenon is well documented in behavioural science and behavioural economics, is “if management does that, it is because others are not behaving that way today, so I should probably not do it either if I want to fit in”. And in the end, you get the opposite effect of the result you were willing to achieve…

The same is true with most CEO speeches, « all hands » meetings, talks from leaders in staff meetings to their teams etc… What people will be watching is what is done, not so much what is said. So to change your culture: work on what is done (especially when no one is watching) rather than what is said. Only then should you send signals to your employees about something that has been done already and that everybody saw (click here to read more on the 4 different types of signals you should send to your organizations and why).

Learning 1: if you communicate, then communicate on what is done (real life simple stories). But don’t overdo it. When people start seeing too strong a discrepancy between was is communicated and what they see on the ground, they loose trust and you loose credibility.

Learning 2: your communication officers and leaders need training & coaching on how to work with networks. How to balance communication with other forms of engagement, how to build informality in their own ways of interacting with their teams and colleagues, how they can leverage the power of informal networks to their advantage etc… At humanize, we have expertise in leaders training&coaching, specifically around culture shaping. We can also deliver inspirational speeches to audiences of leaders on this topic. And we can put you in contact with a handful of trusted partners who offer training on network leadership. Contact us.