The Role Senior Leadership Plays in Transformation: Sharing a Compelling Vision

Updated: Feb 2

According to a study by McKinsey & Company, nearly 50 percent of leaders said if they could do one thing differently, they would spend more time communicating the transformation story.

C-level executives and senior leadership - including function, department and site leaders - set the tone for transformation projects from the beginning, throughout and beyond. They do this by sharing a clear and compelling vision, modeling change, involving employees, and communicating early and often. While senior leadership can't be everywhere at once their presence is warranted:

  • 92 percent of change management practitioners name top leader sponsorship as the most important factor for organizational change. (IBM)

  • Company-wide change efforts are 12.4 times more likely to be successful when senior leadership communicates continually.

Here's how leadership can engage and energize their employees in transformation:

1. Lead with a Compelling Transformation Story.

According to research by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, people remember information shared as part of a narrative up to 22 times more than facts alone. Additionally, a study by Ohio State found that narratives are more believable than non-narrative accounts, largely because our minds process stories differently. When we're taking in linear information, our brains search our existing knowledge and experiences, then analyze the new information accordingly. But when we're listening to a narrative, we absorb it entirely without pausing to deconstruct. As communicators, we can help our leadership develop transformation stories that connect emotionally with employees. So, what is the issue that your transformation project will solve? Consider sharing customer stories to illustrate how the change will improve their experience, and frontline employee stories to help their colleagues understand the importance all roles play in transformation.

Click here for storytelling tips that can be used for internal communications.

2. Be a Role Model for Commitment and Consistency.

Employees will go to extraordinary lengths for a vision and a leader they believe in, so it's crucial that leaders continually demonstrate their commitment to the transformation. When leaders make themselves available to discuss the transformation and listen to employee feedback - whether it's through a town hall, video, or walking the floor - they signal their commitment to the project as well as their employees. Another key aspect of a successful transformation story is consistency. If a C-suite leader says something that contradicts what a site leader or team manager shares, confusion and mistrust will abound, so make sure everyone is using the same playbook.

3. Share Progress and Involve Employees.

It can be difficult reaching certain employees, especially those that don't interact with customers or have access to anyone directly involved in the transformation. Identify and equip transformation advocates and managers with information about progress. By sharing positive feedback, you are educating everyone about approaches that work and reinforcing the vision. If the feedback is constructive, then involve the audience in determining the best way forward. Doing so will help reinforce the vision, invigorate people about progress, help them learn about best practices, and ensure everyone feels included. They believe because they're actually witnessing the behavior, action, and results. Little victories inspire greater confidence, and big victories are the results of lots of little wins.