Change Communications with Andrea Greenhous

Summary

We had fellow-Canadian Andrea Greenhous , Founder and Chief Internal Communication Strategist at Vision2Voice Communications, was on the show talk to us about something on all of our minds in the wake of COVID-19, new remote working conditions, and the largest civil rights movement in history happening right now: change communication.

Resources

Here are the resources she shared with us on the show:

The Change Journey
Persona Cards for Change Management
Her prolific blog at Vision2Voice

Transcript

Adam:

You’re watching the Bananatag Morning Show. You must be awesome.

Kyla:

But depending on where you’re tuning in from this might not be your morning. It might be your lunch. It might be your happy hour, but regardless you can find us here every Wednesday and Friday at 9:00 AM Pacific and 12:00 PM Eastern. And we will be here talking to internal communicators from around the world about what Comms looks like right now in this crazy world we’re living in, how to do it well, how to connect with your peers and definitely having some laughs as well.

Adam:

That’s right now, I have it on good authority that we are once again, joined by much of the glitterati of internal communications here in the live chat. Honestly, if you’re not tuning in live, you’re missing out. So if you’re here and you’re watching, why don’t you go ahead and flood the live feed with emoji reactions so we know you’re here. We’d love to see it. Meanwhile, you’ve probably noticed we’re joined by a friendly face. Andrea Greenhouse is an internationally recognized thought leader in internal communication and the founder and chief internal communication strategist of Vision to Voice, a Canadian internal Comms agency.

                She’s the author of The Captain That Wants To Water Ski, lessons in creating belonging, engagement and alignment in your organization. For those of you who don’t know Andrea, she helps businesses improve their performance, increase profitability, and attract and retain talent by focusing on one thing, people. Andrea’s passion for employee Comms began over 25 years ago when she saw firsthand, how it can make a difference in the organization’s success. And since then, she’s combined innovative strategies and fresh thinking to help organizations achieve better business outcomes and manage complex transformation and change.

                Thank goodness we have you here. Today, she joins us from her home in the capital of Canada, Ottawa. Please welcome Andrea Greenhouse.

Andrea:

Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here today.

Kyla:

Well, thank you for being here. It’s lovely to have you. But before we get started, we got to know what’s in your cap, girl?

Andrea:

Starbucks. Coffee fuels [crosstalk 00:02:01] and my business.

Adam:

I hear you.

Kyla:

So today we’re going to be talking about something that is central to communications and has always been central to communication, but it feels like it’s taken on a new meaning and that’s changed communication and change. So Andrea has led some of the government of Canada’s largest change initiatives, totalling close to $1 billion and has led companies through major acquisitions, significant downsizing, restructuring, and also supported some culture change initiatives. So perfect guest to have here to talk about change today and all of these things, experience of things that we’re all going through right now. But before we get into it, let us-

Andrea:

Oh, no.

Kyla:

Don’t say, “Oh, no,” you’re going to be fine. We’re going to get to know you.

Adam:

Getting to know you now … No, I won’t sing. Anyway, you know how this works. We have 30 seconds on the clock. We’re going to ask you some questions. All you have to do is sit back, say the first thing that comes to your mind. Andrea, are you ready?

Andrea:

Yep. Ready?

Adam:

All right. What is your full name?

Andrea:

Andrea Helen Mary Greenhouse.

Kyla:

Cats or dogs?

Andrea:

Dogs.

Adam:

If you could have worked from anywhere in the world during quarantine, where would it be?

Andrea:

At home.

Kyla:

Yeah?

Andrea:

Yeah.

Kyla:

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Andrea:

Oatmeal cookies.

Adam:

All right. We’re going to get deep. Who would play you in the movie of your life?

Andrea:

That’s a hard one. Susan Sarandon?

Kyla:

Good one. What’s your favorite dinosaur?

Andrea:

Oh my gosh. I guess a T-Rex.

Adam:

And finally, what is the last show you binged?

Andrea:

Ozark.

Adam:

Oh, I want to get into it but it’s so dark.

Kyla:

I haven’t started yet. I haven’t started yet but

[crosstalk 00:00:04:00]

.

Andrea:

Yeah. It’s very good.

Adam:

Well, thank you, Andrew. You’re a good sport. Now that we’ve gotten acquainted, shall we get into some change talk?

Andrea:

Sure.

Adam:

All right. Well, you have put it well that you can communicate till the cows come home, but if you don’t understand behavior, it’s not going to do a thing. So tell me more.

Andrea:

So like the picture might say, I grew up in a farm, so the analogy is very well taken and it’s right. You can’t just communicate around change. You have to understand how humans work and you have to think about the behavior you want to change. So first of all, we all know that change is hard. That’s not new. But why is change hard? To me, there’s two primary reasons. The first one is that we’re creatures of habit and we like predictability. And one of the things that’s been so hard about the COVID-19 pandemic is that there’s so much uncertainty. And when you introduce change in an organization, all of a sudden your things are disrupted. And just like the cows who are utterly predictable, they calm …

Kyla:

I see what you did there.

Andrea:

I had to put in a bad dad joke just because it’s Father’s Day next weekend. Anyway, they come home, morning and night to get milked. So we need that predictability. And so one of the things when you’re communicating is you need to communicate as much information as possible to fill in those gaps. The second thing, and the thing that I think a lot of people might not know about change is that it creates, what I like to call, friction. It slows people down. And I’ll use the example of my first, … well, introducing myself on the Slack channel, the Comms unity, Slack channel. So this person who says she’s a worldwide expert in Comms is trying to use Slack for the very first time. And I hit H-I, exclamation mark, return. I hadn’t used Slack. I had spent 15 minutes I didn’t know I had trying to fix my mistake. And I was really in a different world.

                So this friction of new, whether it’s moving into a new office building or changing the way we work or using new technology or whatever it is, it makes it difficult for us to do our job. And most people, this is the eternal optimist in me, show up at work every day, wanting to do a good job. And they’re afraid that the change will slow them down, make them look dumb and maybe cause mistakes or errors. So those are really the two things that you have to realize around change. And once you start to understand what those uncertainties and what things are going to slow people down, what speed bumps are there, then you can start to address the change.

Kyla:

Yeah. So there’s really an emotional component that I never really thought of before of you want people to change, but there’s this fear of, “Well, what if I do it wrong, or I look stupid, or I can’t do it, or I don’t actually understand and I’m afraid to ask? There is that huge emotional component, which I personally never really considered before I changed communications. So that’s really interesting that you bring that up. Something that I liked that you talk about is using learning as your friend when you’re communicating change. So what does that look like, using learning as a friend [inaudible 00:07:48] change communication?

Andrea:

So I worked on a lot of big projects and there’s the training department over here and the Comms team over here. And they’re completely separate. But in my mind, communication and learning are on one big continuum and from awareness to a mastery of a task. And when you actually look at the brain science behind learning and Comms, it’s very, very similar, all that neuroscience that’s behind the amazing things that we do is the same, whether it’s learning or training. So what I like to do is, and this is one thing that I think is important is making sure that the content that you’re spewing out every day has a learning component.

                So it’s not just about the news. It’s about providing people with the information that they need. And it’s about packaging it in a way that’s useful and can be a learning tool going forward. So a checklist, have you a cool tip or fast fact or whatever it is, something that’s a good reference to help reinforce behavior, to help people over those speed bumps is really a great way of using your communication content and giving it a lot more value.

Adam:

I love that. So when you were helping guide employees to return to work, which we’ll talk about in a little bit, instead of a poster about the measures that they should take to be healthy, it’s a checklist. Have you followed these measures to protect your health? It’s a very powerful shift.

                So we’ve all heard about social listening in the listening and the context of external Comms and social media. As an internal Comms platform, we’re obviously very interested in embedding listening and two-way into employee communication. How do you think you can make listening a regular part of your internal Comms practice and how does that help with change?

Andrea:

Good question. So before I start talking about listening, I think it’s really important to talk about psychological safety. Because if people don’t feel safe to speak up to question the status quo, you’re going to hear crickets. You’re not going to get the information that you want from employees. They won’t feel safe to come forward. So psychological safety is really important in building healthy organization that really thrives. So that’s job one. Job two is not just listening, but involving people in the change. Instead of doing change to people, involve them in the change. And I always say, it drives me crazy, you spend all this time hiring these super intelligent people, giving them a great employee experience and attracting the best and brightest, and then you don’t listen to them. What’s with that? So harness is all those smart people and make them feel valued and have their input and ideas. And then change will be so much easier because they’ll have bought into what’s going on. And it’s probably a better solution as well.

Adam:

Yeah, I think it was Angela Sinica who talked to us several weeks ago about when you’re starting out with the comm strategy, whether it’s changed or not, putting it out there, putting the feelers out there then five or 10 employees get their input without going too far into the process. It’s brilliant.

Andrea:

Yeah. And-

Kyla:

And I love … Sorry, go ahead, Andrea.

Andrea:

I was going to say everything that an organization does should have that input from employees.

Kyla:

Yeah, absolutely. I love what you said about you’ve hired all these brilliant people who are doing great work and contributing to the business. Why are you ignoring them? Why don’t you want their input? It’s so wild to me. Why wouldn’t we want their input? They’re the people who are doing the work and it seems so simple, doesn’t it? But for some reason, it just gets lost in the chaos of, we have all these wonderful people and we want them to do good work and we want to empower them. But why aren’t we listening to them? So once you’ve listened and, and really understood your audience’s behavior, you’re all set up to work in these new insights, into your storytelling. So you just listen and you can weave into storytelling.

Andrea:

Yeah. So it’s interesting. I’m a big fan of storytelling for a bunch of reasons. One, and we’ll show sort of the change paradigm that I use or framework or whatever you want to call it a little bit later, but really important part of change is reinforcing and celebrating success, reinforcing good behavior and celebrating success. So you want to share stories to do that. But stories are also a powerful learning tool. I don’t know how many times I read my kids, The Paper Bag Princess, just to let them know that you don’t have to have nice clothes to be a great prince or great princess. I don’t know if anybody’s read that book …

Adam:

Oh, yeah.

Kyla:

Oh, yeah.

Andrea:

So storytelling is more memorable and it actually has been proven to light off different parts of our brain. And it really is a powerful learning tool. So using stories in organizations to help learn and then reinforce behavior. But my big caution, and I’m writing blog about this right now, is that it can’t just be the good stories, and that’s for two reasons. First of all, you learn from failure. How many times have I picked myself, falling down, pick myself up and really learn from that experience. We’re learning from all the things that are happening in the world right now. We’re learning how to be better and we’re getting to better. So sharing stories that aren’t so good.

                And the second reason is no organization is perfect. So why would you only tell good stories and happy stories, because that’s not authentic, it’s not going to build trust. So you really need to make sure that your stories are balanced. And you can tell a story in a way that encourages that psychological safety. Tell a story about getting back to work and what’s not working and how you listen to your employees and now you’ve think you fixed it. But if it hasn’t been fixed, let’s try it again. So it’s really important just to be real with your stories and not, I think I’m going to call my blog something about, “put down the pompoms,” because I see a lot of [crosstalk 00:00:14:44]. It’s all about, “Rah, rah, rah. We’re all great.” No organization is perfect. No person is perfect, just like me. But let’s talk about some of those harder stories.

Adam:

That is a great topic. I can’t wait to read the blog. This idea of fostering psychological safety by sharing the stories that make it regular, that not everyone’s doing great all the time. I love that. Meanwhile, we’ve got a final question for you, but I want to just highlight that the chat has gotten pretty ugly. There’s some fierce competition going on. I thought it would be the utterly predictable line that would set people up, but it’s been the oatmeal cookies. There’s a debate going on. We have … This is Jenny Field, “Surely with raisins.” We’ve got people saying, “No raisin club president.” Somebody is going to make oatmeal cookies. I really like Kristin Hancock, “Raisins are small, wrinkly morsels of evil.”

Kyla:

So be careful how you answer, Andrea.

Andrea:

Okay, but got to answer it with my heart. And actually, Martha Stewart has a recipe for kitchen sink cookies, and there’s coconut, raisins and chocolate chip cookies. And those are my favorite.

Kyla:

You balance it out with the coconut and the chocolate chips so the raisins are not quite as evil as they may be on their own.

Andrea:

Yeah, I like raisins. I don’t care if it’s wrinkly.

Adam:

Me too.

Andrea:

I’m embracing my wrinkles. Why shouldn’t I embrace the raisin with wrinkles?

Adam:

Hey, as a kid trick or treating, I’m that kid like the Minute Maid little boxes of raisins. They’re good. I’m coming to Ottawa when all this is over. We’re going to eat cookies. But back to change. Sorry, it was my … So you’re talking about storytelling. I think that’s such a good point for people like the customers at Bananatag. They’ve convinced the organizations just how important internal Comms is, and they’ve made the investment in a tool, but now it’s time to tell the story also of just how much better things are once you embed proper internal Comms practice.

Andrea:

I think I wrote a blog about that too. Some were all about the data and the results and everything. But I think I wrote a blog about how we’re natural storytellers and how we need to tell stories about how internal communication and change is working. So it’s not just about the data, but it’s the stories behind the data. When we do a survey, we always follow up with a focus group to find out why does the data tell us this? What’s the story behind that? If everybody wanted email, but nobody sits at a desk, why did they want email? If everybody wants to latest update on, but they’re not interested in an app, why? Understanding the stories behind the data is so important and also telling the story about how you change your organization.

Adam:

And I think we have a graphic that shows a bit of this too.

Andrea:

Oh, yeah. Okay.

Kyla:

So you want to walk us through this?

Andrea:

Sure. Let’s talk about this. So I have the pro side training. It’s called ADKAR. I follow John Cotter, who’s another big change person, but the ADKAR theory is … So I use this in my change practice. So you go from awareness, which is what a lot of Comms people will think, “Well, okay. We just have to tell them that the change is happening and why it’s needed,” and all that stuff. But then, ADKAR model basically supports people, individuals in their change journey. So I not only need to know what’s happening and why, and have an awareness of the change, but I need to want to change. And that desire is built through leadership. So that’s one thing we haven’t talked about today, but a big part of change is equipping leaders to make them leaders and unofficial leaders to help them support the change, have the necessary conversations with people.

                And then the knowledge and ability are basically I know how I need to change. And I know I’m going to need to use Slack. And I read all the Slack tutorials, but now I need to actually do it and actively be able to have the ability to use Slack. And then there’s the reinforcement. And I don’t know how many projects I’ve been on, where they get all the new technology goes live. And they’re like, “Thank you very much, Andrea. See you later.” And I’m like, “Wait. No, there’s so much more to be done.” Because like we were talking about before, you want to celebrate success, you want to make sure things are working and if they’re not, you need to improve. And what I did with this little graphic today … well, I did a couple of days ago, but I realized that in a lot of what I did, I didn’t have that feedback loop built in.

                It was one of the bullets. So I actually made that, there’s a middle line, there’s all the things you need to do or can do to involve employees. And the last line is really some of the tools in your toolbox. So the first line is, “Okay, what do we need to do?” And then the next thing is, “Okay, how do we involve people?” And then the next line is the communication tools that you can use. Then there’s just some basic stuff thrown in there. It is a very helpful way of doing it. Now I’m not one size doesn’t fit all. If you’re working on moving someone in an office, while there’s … knowledge and ability be grouped into one thing, because you’re just moving into an office and you need to figure out a new way of communicating, basically.

Adam:

We’ve had the question, “Will this graphic be posted in Slack?” Yes, we will share it in Comms unity, which we’ll mention it in a little bit, if you’re not familiar with Comms unity. But speaking of tools, we’re down to the last seven minutes of our chat. It’s been so fun. It’s gone quick. And you know what that means. It’s time for the Bananatag tool tip the day. Take it away.

Andrea:

So my tool tip of the day is to use personas. And there’s Barb, she works with us, and talk about an engaged employee. She’s the most wonderful employee you’d ever want to meet. But anyways, we didn’t like to do personas and it’s really useful, whether you’re doing change or not, to really understand sort of what makes people tick. And because I believe that once you understand that, you can really develop more meaningful and impactful communications. It makes your communications humans. So we use a combination of focus groups, surveys, and interviews with people to dig down … I remember what the construction company. I went in. I was at a small project. I put some piece of paper on the wall and said, “Okay, tell me what makes a good day and a bad day.”

                And very quickly, we understood it was a competitive … Oh, there’s Bar blushing … competitive organization, driven to win. And so that anything that was going to stop them from winning or help them win would be something that we needed to focus on in the communication. So look at communication preferences because that’s another one blow my mind sort of thing. I can tell my dentist how I want him to communicate with me, but I can’t tell my employer how I want to get my information. Come on. So I really enjoy using personas. I think they’re really important.

Adam:

Absolutely. We have a good question from the chat. Amy asks, “Personas can be super helpful to develop a holistic, successful communication. What resources have you used or do you recommend to help develop them?”

Andrea:

So usually I first start with the Comms team and say, “Okay, what do you think? What do you think matters to these people? What do you think makes a good day? Where they get their resources?” And then I usually do some survey. We do a survey and, or a focus group and interviews, depending on how big and complex the organization is. And sometimes it’s really interesting to see what the delta is between the Comms people thought, how people thought they wanted to have their communication delivered to them and how people really wanted to. So usually a combination.

Adam:

this was such a helpful process. I used to work at a university and obviously, universities are big complex places because you’ve got many different faculties with different areas of research. And so there were dozens and dozens and dozens of conversations to get to the bottom of who were these personas and how can we arrive at the right number of personas to make it actually meaningful, but not too limited. It such an interesting Comms practice.

Andrea:

Yep. And you can do them specifically for change too.How has this change going to affect this person? And this construction company, well, okay. They’re going to be using iPads outside. So I said, “Do you have glare screens for these people because it’s going to be sunny.” So just things like that. Walk through their job and understand where are those collision points and the barriers and the speed bumps are and how the change is going to affect them is pretty important.

Adam:

Absolutely. Now we’re down to our last few minutes. We’re going to make a few quick announcements and then come back to our amazing guest. You’ve been so great. Next week on the show, we’re delighted to have two more very dynamic guests. We have Dr. Jen Frahm, co-founder of the Agile Change Leadership Institute, and Alan Oram, creative director at Alive with Ideas. So tune in.

                The week after that, we got some real special plans and story. You won’t want to miss it. We’ll talk more about that next week. And we’re also very excited that if you tuned in, you found this helpful, you never have to miss a show again. You can sign up to get access to previously recorded episodes and Morning Show expert content, and get reminders about upcoming guests and info about them. So we’ll share that link in the chat if you want to make sure you never miss that.

Kyla:

And of course, if you’re a communicator communicating change right now, which I think everyone is, wouldn’t it be nice to have a little bit of data to find out who’s opening, what they’re interested in, how they feel and collect feedback? Well, with Bananatag, you can definitely do that. We have the most collaborative email designer in the industry that allows you to embed poll surveys right in your emails. So you don’t have to launch a huge engagement survey to find out how people are feeling, and you can act more quickly on that feedback that you get. If you were interested in checking out Bananatag and all the awesome stuff that it can do and chatting to one of our account executives about what they’re seeing in internal Comms right now, go ahead and head to the chat and look for the demo link. And we would be happy to set you up today. You’ve been absolutely wonderful, Andrea. It was such a treat. The chat was just bumping.

                Lots of fun commentary going on in there. Changed communication people are passionate about it. It’s obviously something you have to think about. I love how you’ve connected it to just the very practical human elements, like how do people feel? What are the practical implications? I love the idea of changed personas. It’s all really wonderful. I know that everybody’s going to take a lot from this. But before we go, do you have any parting words for our audience?

Andrea:

So I have two things. The first is I want to thank Bananatag. I think you guys do an amazing job at building the community, the Slack channel, everything that you do is so wonderful. It helps me learn and I’m sure it helps everybody else learn. We all learn from each other. And the second thing is I have a confession to make to everybody, that I am trying to get out of the change business.

Kyla:

Oh, what?

Andrea:

Yeah. So this is the thing. If we all did communication well, and we looked at how people are feeling and what behaviors we wanted to drive and what outcomes we’re trying to achieve, change wouldn’t be so difficult. I went into so many organizations where the communication that they did was terrible. And that’s why I thought, “Okay, I’m not doing change projects anymore.” Forget it because I go in there and I’m stuck with old school, I’m talking eighties, communication practices. And so I really wanted to change how people communicate to start with, because to be honest, change is always happening. And if you’re not moving forward, you’re going to get run over. So we all need to be thinking about change every day in everything we do. And if we all think about how can we help people thrive in our organizations, how can we make their good days every day, then we’re all going to be supporting change anyways. So that’s my closing thought.

Kyla:

Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Andrea. Thank you everyone who joined us live this morning and participated in the chat. What a hoot. Don’t forget … You guys are the best. Everybody’s just the best.

Adam:

It’s entirely fascinating.

Andrea:

I want to do a [inaudible 00:29:04].

Kyla:

You’ll see it. It’s going to be great. Andrea going into just reply to all of you. Thank you so much for tuning in, Andrea. Thank you so much for being here. Remember everybody, you got this and we will see you next week. All right. Thanks everybody. Bye.

Adam:

Bye. You guys, there’s been the thickest spider on this blankets for the last 30 minutes. And finally, I looked over a minute ago and it’s disappeared. I don’t know where it is. Should I burn down my house? I think I should.

Kyla:

I think that’s the only reasonable answer. You burn down your house now.

Adam:

Yeah. [crosstalk 00:29:44].

Kyla:

Well, good luck with that.

Andrea:

Yeah, that was good. It was fun. I’m glad it’s over.