The minute I walked into their building, I could feel the excitement reverberating from the walls. Everyone was buzzing about the unveiling of their new company name, branding, and messaging. The IT Guy explained that they were “no longer” a start-up (true), and the designer clearly articulated how these changes were to take the company into the next phase of their growth. Everyone I spoke to was fired up, and could articulate the reasons behind the changes in a remarkably extemporaneous and consistent way.
“How long have you known about this?,” I asked suddenly aware of how different this announcement felt from the ones I was a part of in my corporate roles. “Oh about a month,” was the consistent answer. “They trusted us to keep in under wraps until today.” “We don’t really have secrets around here.” I looked around. The only closeable doors were the conference rooms and the cleverly designed old-fashioned red phone booths employees could use in case they needed some privacy for a personal matter. “Plus WE WERE PART OF the design for the new look for the website and social media channels.”
I thought back to my early years on the receiving end of such transformation messages. As a lower level manager, I’d receive last-minute notice of a meeting and then would head to a conference room or a conference call to hear a carefully prepared speech about why we should be fired up and then handed a tee-shirt to seal the deal.
A few years later, when I was closer to the inner circle, I’d receive an invite to a conference call 30 minutes before the press release, where I would be handed a list of carefully crafted Q & As to cover with my team 30 minutes after the press got the news.
In my most recent executive role, I signed a stack of non-disclosures and was one of the few “in the know,” wordsmithing talking points and crafting As to the Qs most likely to be asked, triple checking to ensure the wording could be stomached by both legal and the employees.
Of course, you can’t manage a Fortune 50 company like a “no longer a start-up.” But, when the veil of secrecy becomes the norm, employees waste valuable energy bracing themselves for what’s next and guarding their enthusiasm.
Organic fire comes when change ignites with you, not on you.
If you want a team on fire about your change, trust them enough to help gather the kindling.