A leader’s call to action is a key tool in dealing with change.  What you say as the leader is a critical part of the equation, but just as important is what your employees hear, take to heart, and act upon.  Making your call to action ring true for employees depends upon an understanding of how they will process, comprehend, and incorporate the information you deliver.  Your responsibility is to make certain the message presented and received ensures the required actions are taken.  Unless employees hear and act upon the correct message, you are wasting time, energy, and resources.

A leader’s successful call to action involves:

  • Defining needed actions.
  • Articulating the reasons why those actions are crucial.
  • Knowing what employees will hear.
  • Knowing how employees will perceive, process, and react to the message.
  • Delivering the message in an effective manner based upon the first four parameters.
  • Constantly working to align employee point of view with company direction and mission.

This article highlights two interrelated concepts:

  • The factors which will influence what employees hear in the call to action message you deliver.
  • The factors which will influence how employees perceive, evaluate, and react to what they heard.

These two concepts overlap.  People are capable of hearing, perceiving, and evaluating information at the same time.  Factors which influence what people hear may also influence how they process the information.  These two ideas have been separated arbitrarily only for discussion purposes.

An understanding of these two related concepts allows a leader to frame their message, determine what to say, and how best to present it.

  1. Defining Needed Actions.

The leader must take three steps in defining the actions needed:

  • Identify the issue, evaluate the situation, decipher the root cause, outline potential consequences, and make the decisions on how to resolve the problem.
  • Determine the tasks, goals, and outcomes necessary for employees to implement the solution.
  • Deliver an inspiring message detailing those needed parameters to the employees.

Employees will be better equipped to produce the leader’s anticipated results if they understand what must be accomplished.

A call to action must be focused on what is best for the survival of the company.  The potential for success increases when a call to action is proactive to issues on the horizon rather than reactive to a crisis.

Leaders may wish to cover relevant information on related topics such as outsourcing, potential downsizing, layoffs, increased automation, or the use of foreign workers, especially if these options are not under consideration.

  1. Articulating the Reasons Why Actions Are Crucial.

 The leader must articulate the reasons for issuing a call to action.  They must spell out the background data and information underlining the problem, the rationale for the change based upon that data, and the consequences of not making the changes as outlined in their call to action.

Knowing why they are heading in a specific direction allows employees to focus in on the job at hand, rather than constantly wondering why they were assigned to do the job in the first place.

This justification might be based upon a need to:

  • Develop a competitive edge in an evolving market.
  • Survive the current economic downturn.
  • Take advantage of new information or ideas.
  • Reverse an erosion in market share.
  • Adapt to changes in consumer demand.
  • Improve company productivity.
  • Broaden the income base through product diversification.
  • Tackle a technical problem.
  • Incorporate new technologies.

Leaders should consider providing updates on changes to their niche, disruptions in their industry, rumors about a merger, or the potential for a hostile takeover.

  1. What Employees Hear.

 What employees will hear depends upon several factors including human nature, their background, their experiences, how they feel, and how they evaluate an issue.  Employees who are happy with their current employment situation are likely to hear the message in the manner the leader intended.  Employees who are not content with their jobs or their perceived future with the company will be skeptical.

To successfully craft a call to action, leaders must develop and maintain a sense of where employees are at, how they are feeling, and how receptive they are to change.  How capable a leader is at sensing their employees’ current point of view, will directly influence their ability to frame the message appropriately.  These perceptions, in conjunction with the intentions of the message, will help the leader develop a call to action tailored to communicate the message effectively.  Hitting the mark in sensing how clearly their delivered message will be heard, increases the potential for positive results.

What employees will hear is determined by factors such as:

  • Rumors circulating in the company.
  • Where the listener’s priorities are currently at.
  • How they feel about an issue, the bigger picture around them, or both.
  • Preconceived notions of the listener about the leader, the stated problem, or their own circumstances.
  • The employees’ background, education, and career goals and objectives.
  • Their commitment to the company.
  • Their historic perspectives.
  • Their approach and attitude.
  • Their personal situation.
  • How the leader manifests themselves as a leader and as a speaker.
  • The message.
  • How the message is delivered.
  • The past actions and follow-ups of the leader on other key issues.
  • The general direction, mindset, and decision making exhibited by upper management and the leader.
  • How the call to action is backed up and justified.
  • The ability of the leader to connect on an emotional level.

Here are a few examples:

  • If the company has been negotiating with the union in bad faith for years, it will be hard for rank-and-file members to develop a positive attitude toward newly announced leadership direction.
  • If the company has successfully weathered past issues based upon sound leadership decision making, when the leader says it is time for a change, employees will possess the confidence to trust leadership’s track record.
  • An employee with serious concerns at home may not be capable of tuning into a leader’s presentation.

Leaders, in their efforts to connect with employees, might consider including an emphasis on such concepts as: employees’ wishes to participate in something bigger than themselves; yielding self-esteem and self-satisfaction; answering to a higher calling; saving the company; defeating a competitor; or winning a battle for control of market shares.

4. How Employees Perceive, Process, and React to the Message.

 How employees perceive and process the message, i.e., the filters they use to evaluate the impacts upon their concerns, will influence how they react to the message delivered.  If an employee is harboring a high priority issue at the forefront of their personal concerns, it may be difficult for them to hear the details of the message from any perspective other than that specific issue.  For example, if an employee has already committed in their mind to actively seek a position with a competitor, a call to action message delivered by the leader may be twisted and distorted by the employee to justify their chosen direction.

 What factors will influence how employees will react:

  • Concerns about their jobs.
  • Where they are at in their careers.
  • The job market.
  • Their historic perspectives.
  • Their commitment to the company.
  • Perceptions of the employee concerning their role and value to the company.
  • Their approach and attitude.
  • Their feelings, beliefs, and emotions.
  • Whether they believe in the leader, the vision, and the mission.
  • If they are convinced to buy into the leader’s message and requested actions based upon the delivery of the message and its justification.
  • How they believe it will help them to:
    • Succeed in their career.
    • Find self-esteem.
    • Contribute to the success of the mission.
    • Meet personal goals and objectives.

    Whether or not they believe it:

    • Makes sense.
    • Will be successful.
    • Is the correct action to take.

     

  • How the leader manifests themselves as a leader.
  • How the leader manifests themselves as a leader.
  • How the message is delivered.
  • The past actions and follow-ups of the leader on other key issues.
  • The general direction, mindset, and decision making exhibited by upper management and the leader.
  • The ability of the leader to connect on an emotional level.

If an employee feels appreciated, engaged, and valued in their position, their willingness to adapt to the change, go the extra mile, and react positively to the leader’s call to action will be far higher.  If historically the company has always maintained a commitment to their employees’ best interest during times of change, it will be easier for employees to believe this will continue in the face of the current changes outlined. 

  1. Delivering the Message.

 Calls to action must be timely, truthful, honest, upbeat, optimistic, confident, and inspiring.  The leader’s words, their tone, posture, demeanor, and delivery approach are all interrelated to what employees will hear and take away from the message.

 A call to action must unlock the energy, ideas, imagination, and the love for a challenge in the workforce.  It must encourage employees to seek options, innovations, and solutions.  Including questions in the message, which need answering, will motivate employees to unlock hidden solutions, concepts, information, or experiences in propelling the company to the next level.

 The delivery should be:

  • Clear, concise, and to the point, as is reasonably possible, while still conveying the critical components of the call to action.
  • Done with the appropriate sense of urgency.
  • Detailed enough to answer major questions.
  • Scheduled with time for employee questions or clarifications.
  • Technically targeted toward the average employee across all divisions yet inspiring enough to bring all employees on board at the same time.
  • Followed up with detailed written talking points and additional information, data, or graphs.

Examples of what not to do:

  • Put “spin” on the truth.
  • Manipulate data to fit the narrative.
  • Make the mistake of saying everything is great when body language, tone of voice, or demeanor might indicate the potential for problems in paradise.
  • Extinguish hope because it promotes desperation.
  • Blame others. Slandering or pointing fingers shirks responsibility, deflates human beings, decreases productivity, and is demoralizing.
  • Downsize employees while increasing C level benefits.
  • Release information about a reduction in force on social media rather than in an employee meeting.

The call to action message delivery should energize the innovative capabilities of employees to solve the problem at hand.

The message must be reiterated, reinforced, and followed-up on.

  1. Setting the Stage for Employees to Hear the Message.

 Human nature tells us in a free society, with public sentiment nothing will fail, without it nothing will succeed.  Consequently, leaders who understand how to mold public and employee sentiment over time will accomplish more than those who simply announce decisions.

 A leader will set the stage for employees to buy-in to a call to action message by:

  • Constantly sharing and promoting the importance of the company mission and vision.
  • Fostering a positive company culture which is responsive to employee well-being, committed to employee centric issues such as Safety First, and highlights key concepts such as collaboration and teamwork.
  • Building a positive atmosphere which aligns the employee’s best interest with those of the company.
  • Creating a sense within employees they are valued, appreciated, listened to, and understood.
  • Articulating and engraining within the company culture the intrinsic value of the company within society.

 Summary:

What you say and do as the leader will define the future of your company.  When a call to action is required, it is critical the message delivered to your employees is understood, willingly embraced, and acted upon appropriately.

As the leader, when significant changes occur, you must respond with a decisive and effective call to action, formulated to overcome the challenges and move your company successfully into the future.

Avatar
Michael Roney has a Master’s of Science degree from the University of Montana and over thirty-three years of experience in a successful professional career. Nineteen of those years were spent in supervisory and managerial roles. He has been dedicated to studying the role of leadership and management in organizations for over 25 years, in relationship to how work is accomplished and how organizations adapt to change. The single greatest compliment he was given during his career was from an employee who stated he had a “Ph.D. in common sense”. He has worked since the fall of 2013, part-time, as a freelance business writer, providing services to clients from coast to coast. He has completed business related documents covering several areas including: safety management, human resources, driver’s education, agreements, contracts, product descriptions, insurance claim related documents, non-disclosure agreements, business plans, home and business security, resources management, non-profits, child protection, and education.