This week I’ve written about the role of relationship as an agent of change. According to object relations theorists (ask me about them the next time we catch up if you want to know more) key relationships in infancy develop our sense of self, which in turn sets the pattern for the way we behave and interact as adults. So it makes sense that to evolve or more radically change our way of being we can do it most effectively through relationship, in what’s called the intersubjective space co-created by those involved.
The implications for change programmes in businesses are significant.
I’ve worked in communications for almost three decades and in every change programme I’ve been part of, our goal has been to shift the corporate ‘way of being’. Whether it’s about integrating an acquisition, altering the company structure, shifting the working practices or something else, essentially the company is changing and the leadership needs the people within it to change too.
People only get on board if they feel part of the process, if they are invested in its outcome. They need to be in a relationship with the organisation’s leadership that’s based on trust. Essentially, a business needs its own intersubjective space, co-created by the whole team. Once it exists you can get to work on creating the corporate culture, defining the right behaviours and embedding them in the organisation’s DNA.
So what does this mean for communication?
To create this powerful space your communication needs to be:
- Two way. It’s not ‘management says’ and ‘employees do’. Everyone needs to be heard.
- It has to be rooted in reality. What you say has to be understood as meaningful and true.
- You need to be open, honest and respectful of difference.
- Regular, consistent. Silence between two people can be incredibly powerful but in the corporate world it’s likely to be filled by rumour and gossip.
But co-creation is not the same as equality. Each group has its own role in the process and a responsibility to play that role. The leadership has to set out the goals and ambitions and outline the strategy, the team has to provide a critique and be active in helping identify and navigate roadblocks. Any shirking of these responsibilities will undermine the whole process and needs to be called out.
Things are bound to go wrong; misunderstandings are certain to arise. After all it’s people who are at the heart of this process. But if the intersubjective space is real, if the relationship between those in the business is strong – and it will be if it’s based on trust – then problems like this can be resolved. What’s more, do it well and the culture you want will get stronger.
Give me a call if you want to know more about using communication to build the corporate culture your business needs.