Brexit – now we need to listen
With the UK’s EU referendum vote consigned to history, and a daily increase in euphoria, confusion and speculation, what are business leaders, school leaders, parents, or literally anyone being asked ‘what does this mean to me’ supposed to say? The answer, in our view, is very little. You just listen and reassure. The aim should be to maintain stability.
There are currently no concrete answers to what it will mean. It is unchartered territory for everyone. Brexit will be the biggest change management exercise in the history of this country, Europe, possibly even the world. The first rule of managing major change is to give people the space, time and permission to take in the shock.
The role for communicators is to ensure that listening tools exist, that people can access them and that what is shared is really listened to and shared with those who can make a difference. Organisations of all shapes and sizes, and especially our schools and colleges, should pay special attention to our Millennials. They are the biggest generation in history and we are led to believe that this vote has gone against the majority of their wishes. They get storytelling, communication, making a difference and technology. As we respond to Brexit these are key factors we need to build into our plans to communicate with and listen to them.
Here are five things that you could do now to start the process.
1) Have a conversation
Simple as it may sound it is often overlooked. It is so easy today to share our views on social media, leaders are often misled into thinking a conversation has taken place. Look people in the eyes, listen to their concerns, and don’t make promises.
2) Equip leaders with the facts
Speculation is rife and nobody really knows the truth. Provide leaders with some simple facts about what has happened and what does not change in the short term. Keep it real and don’t waste time and energy on pointless speculation.
3) Stay true to your values
Many organisations have ‘equality’, ‘integrity’ and ‘accountability’ as words to describe their core values. In these times, where some media are reporting there has been a huge increase in discriminatory behaviour on our streets, make sure you stay true and hold people accountable for their actions. Change is not an excuse for poor behaviour so remind people what good looks like.
4) Provide people with a space to share their concerns
This could be an ideas (or concerns) wall of post it notes, something online, or some other form where people can anonymously share what is worrying them without prejudice. This should be your reference point for what you say in the future, covering off concerns with facts.
5) Start preparing now
While there are no answers yet, we know they will start to come. Just like when a crisis hits, if we waited until it did to think about how we communicate, we would already be too late. Think about what people (who, how, where, when and why) will need to know and ensure you have systems and processes in place so people are kept informed. Social media will undoubtedly keep us all up to speed. Make sure that you are a step ahead.
Our communications model is called LISA and it starts with Listening. Unlike some communication approaches, LISA starts to create meaningful communication by listening to what the people most important to your organisation’s success currently think, feel and do. It then moves you into a position to identify where you want to be in the future, share your vision and identify the actions to get you there. For Brexit, we believe this is absolutely the approach organisations should be taking, starting with listening.