Throughout history, great leaders have found ways to inspire their people. By creating a guiding narrative, leaders can help followers see past the uncertainty that always accompanies a new venture. Communications strategists Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez have written a “manifesto for change communications.” getAbstract recommends this guide to managers and CEOs who need to communicate a vision and inspire change.
After an upward swing of growth, your company will mature and reach a plateau. If you stop there, you’ll swing down past stagnation toward death. That’s why it’s crucial to leap from maturity to a new dream to start the growth cycle again. Leaders must imagine themselves in the place of their employees to help them move from the comfortable, familiar present to an unknown future. The first step in this process is to listen with empathy. At the communication design firm Duarte, for example, the change process began with 90-minute “Discovery Sessions,” during which small groups of employees openly spoke about which aspects of the company’s culture needed changing.
“Leaders will need to use communication to create moments that galvanize their followers and move them past obstacles and on to the next stage of their journey.“
Change follows a pattern described by the “Venture Scape.” Its five phases are:
“Remember: You, too, have the power to shape your own epic venture and drive it to a successful conclusion.”
“Dream” – The leader has to convince people to subscribe to his or her vision. The leader’s dream will set people in motion.
“Leap” – The leader should motivate his fellow “travelers” to accept new responsibilites.
“Fight” – To deal with adversity, people need to feel the “strength that comes with numbers.” The leader can unite the team with a “battle cry.”
“Climb” – When the journey drags on and the initial enthusiasm wanes, leaders must motivate the travelers to go all the way to the end.
“Arrive” – Leaders should celebrate even preliminary milestones to show appreciation for what people have done.
To tell their “epic” narratives for their Venture Scapes, leaders need to use communication tools skillfully: “Speeches” generate a sense of yearning in the audience to leave an undesirable present for a desirable future; “stories” convey information in a way that helps listeners connect; “ceremonies” allow travelers to jointly celebrate, mourn and mark transitions in their journey; “symbols” are ordinary objects that assume a special meaning for travelers, helping them remember how good they felt at a previous point in time. A leader can use all these tools or a mixture, depending on the stage of the journey and the needs of the travelers.
Nancy Duarte is the CEO of Duarte, a firm that specializes in persuasive presentations, and is the author of several books on the same topic. Duarte graphics formed the basis of Al Gore’s award-winning documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth. Patti Sanchez is the chief strategy officer at Duarte.