Often, as leaders within an organization, you are asked to lead a team of people in a certain direction and you do so to the best of your abilities

Often, as leaders within an organization, you are asked to lead a team of people in a certain direction and you do so to the best of your abilities. But then, you get a call from the powers that be requesting that you change the direction your team is headed and to do it quickly. This can be a very tough position to be in. After all, your team has probably spent a lot of time, effort, and energy on the previous project and now they instantly need to switch gears. Frustration will quickly seep into the minds of your team members.

So how can you communicate with your team in such a way that it will diminish any frustrations or concerns? You can accomplish this if you simply relay, relate, and rally. 

Relay: First you obviously will need to relay the message to your team. Be direct when you relay the message. There is no need to “huff and puff” out your personal frustrations with the decision when you share it with your team. If you show your own frustration, you open the door to a whole mess of complaints and whines from your team. You are the messenger; relay the message clearly and concisely. Also, be as neutral as possible when sharing the message. You don’t want to fall into the trap of bad-mouthing the person who made the decision or make them out to be the bad guy. Don’t play the “victim card” either. Yes, you and your team have to deal with the consequences of the decision, but painting you and your team out to be the victims of the evil higher-ups will not get you anywhere. Your team will quickly take your emotional lead, so be aware of your tone and attitude. 

Relate: Once you have shared the decision with the group, now you can relate to their feelings. This does not mean that you open the flood gates by saying, “Oh, I know how you guys are feeling. I can’t believe they’re doing this to us. I mean, who was the idiot who came up with this idea? Do they know what we have put into this project already?” This kind of talk will only create more anxiety and stress for you and your team. Instead, let your team know that you understand what they’re thinking and feeling by relating it to a previous, outside situation. That means you should share a story about a time in your life when something similar happened, when you were forced to take an unexpected turn. You felt what they are feeling now, but everything turned out okay in the end. It is best if you can choose a story about a similar situation but is not about your current company. This way you are able to relate to their feelings by describing a past situation without sounding like you’re being passive aggressive to your current employer. 

Rally: Lastly, you want to rally your team into feeling better and more proactive towards the new change. You do this by laying out the next action steps in a positive manner. You also want to use a concentrated amount of “we statements”. This means that instead of saying, “So all you guys need to do is….” or “And your next steps are simply….” You should rather say, “So all we need to do is….” or “and our next steps are simply…” This way you are keeping a strong sense of “team” within the group rather than separating yourself from the team. 

Facing a quick and sudden change within an organization can present many difficulties and quite a few headaches for a leader. However, if you use the relay, relate, and rally method, your stress level and frustrations will diminish because you’ll have your team in gear and on your side.

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