How to Ask Clarifying Questions to Lead Successful Organizational Change

Communication Tips for Effective Change Management

Change management can be a daunting task. Perhaps the most difficult part about making change is ensuring that everyone understands what those changes mean, in the context of that person and what you are hoping to achieve from the change. 

People resist change when they don’t understand it

Most people will resist organizational change if they don’t understand it and how it affects them. To successfully implement a new strategy, an individual must believe that the change is good for them and that it will enhance their career.

3 Ways to eliminate resistance to change

There are several ways that organizations can facilitate organizational change and eliminate resistance to the change. These include:

  • Showing how the new policies would positively affect the employee’s own situation 
  • Demonstrating how these policies would improve productivity 
  • Asking employees to predict what will happen with their job because of this change

However, these conversations can be difficult. 

We sometimes forget that everyone has a different personality and receives messages differently. Consequently, there are many styles of communication. This doesn’t mean that it should be an obstacle to good communication. The crucial factor is that whoever you are speaking to understands your message.

Nonverbal communication can describe understanding

To make sure that people understand what you have said, first check their body language.

Body language can give away a lot about their true feelings. It can betray someone who is feeling uncomfortable or seems to have a hard time understanding what the other person is saying. It’s always important for a person to be aware of these signals and be prepared to respond accordingly.

Facial expressions tell a lot. You may also find that the person you are talking to is not looking at you, or looking downward. This is typically a sign of disinterest or discomfort, or that they do not understand what is being communicated.

Another signal you should look for is crossed arms, which implies insecurity or defensiveness.

Check for understanding by asking for clarification

There are several ways to make sure that employees understand your message. Perhaps the best strategy is to ask for clarification. 

This allows the employee to verbalize your message in their own words. You’ll learn exactly how well you are communicating to your people, and learn the language they prefer to use.

As well as clarifying that your people understand the future vision, you will also help them to feel more comfortable and confident in their roles and with the tasks you have delegated to them.

How to ask clarifying questions

Asking clarifying questions can help you to better understand the other person’s perspective. It can open a dialogue, and also ensures that you avoid making assumptions or getting things wrong.

However, many people find it uncomfortable to ask clarifying questions. This is especially true of employees – they don’t wish to look stupid. Therefore, a good manager will ask clarifying questions of the person he or she is speaking to.

When asking clarifying questions, always make sure that you approach the person in a friendly manner and avoid embarrassing them. Be polite and professional, using ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Avoid the temptation to lecture. Instead, ask questions that are open to interpretation. Never ask questions in a manner that is condescending or could embarrass an employee.

Clarifying questions: Examples to use

The word ‘clarify’ is a verb meaning, ‘to make clear or more precise’. When we ask a question, we’re asking for an answer that will help us to understand something; in this case, that the employee understands what you have said to them. So what types of questions should you ask? Here are a few examples:

  • What does this mean to you?
  • What exactly is changing?
  • What will this mean for your job?
  • How is the department changing?
  • What new responsibilities might you be expected to take on?
  • How do you feel about the organization’s future?
  • How do you think your work impacts the team and our future?
  • What is the change and why is it important?
  • When will it occur?
  • Who will be impacted?
  • What do we need to do differently?
  • Where can you go to ask questions or get more info?

Making sure employees understand is crucial for successful change management

Change management can be a difficult and confusing process that leads to a variety of misunderstandings and miscommunication.

Ensuring that people understand the reason for the change, how it impacts them, and what they must do to help the team attain its collective targets is crucial for success. 

That’s why it is important to ensure that your managers and leaders are equipped with exceptional communication skills – including the ability to ask clarifying questions.

Your people can be game-changers. To learn how our Leadership Circle™ Impact Program delivers the skills your organization needs to deliver impactful and sustainable change, click here.

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