14 Ways Leaders Can Communicate Shifting Priorities Without Losing Trust

Expert Panel® Forbes Coaches Council

Part of being a good leader is recognizing and accepting that a course correction is in order when your vision is not coming together properly. Faced with priorities that are in flux, a company leader must also understand how to effectively recalibrate and communicate those shifting priorities to employees without causing undue concern, or worse, losing their trust.

Below, 14 members of Forbes Coaches Council discuss how to share news about changing plans when it’s time to pivot from the current strategy.

Featured members share ways leaders can communicate shifting priorities without losing trust.
Forbes Coaches Council members share ways leaders can communicate shifting priorities without losing trust.

1. Build A Culture Of Trust And Open Communication

Building a culture of trust, open communication, vulnerability and strong relationships prepares organizations to make necessary shifts without causing concern. Gathering input from staff members and discussing options to respond to possible marketplace shifts keeps everyone prepared to recalibrate as needed. To build relationships, leaders at all levels benefit from visibility and accessibility. – Edward Reed, The John Maxwell Team

2. Give It A Bigger Context And Take A Longer-Range View

We tend to focus on the here-and-now, short-term goals, but when we bring a larger intention, a larger mission, we’re able to reframe “failures” into “stepping stones” or “learning opportunities.” The way leaders communicate this reframing is paramount in these situations. The key is to link the “failure” to our larger mission. – Sara Gilbert, Strategist Business Development

3. Share The Situation, Options And Solution

I believe in the SOS formula, which stands for situation/options/solution. Openly share with the team what the situation is, what the options are and what you believe to be the solution moving forward. People appreciate when they are trusted with the details and understand when things need changing. It is when they are kept in the dark that problems arise. – John Lowe, Ty Boyd, Inc.

4. Show Confidence And Focus On The Plan

These days, course correction is needed all the time. Your response as a leader sends a strong message, and your people will follow your lead. Don’t get hung up on the fact that the vision wasn’t realized. Declare it, own it, show your people you are confident and focus on the plan going forward. Owning the need to change and making adjustments to succeed is strong leadership. – Cheryl Breukelman, Epiphany Coaches Inc.

5. Articulate The ‘Why’ Behind The Course Correction

Leaders always provide the “why.” They fight the fight, not the plan, so changes should be the norm, not the exception. Leadership requires constant analysis, evaluation and adaptation. Course corrections are not failures but adaptations in response to impacting factors. Good leaders clearly articulate why something did not come to fruition and why the plan or strategy required a correction. – JC Glick, Prodromos Leadership

6. Exercise The Empathy Muscle And Be Human

Integrity and authenticity are earned characteristics. Leaders get out in front of the issue by being clear about the situation, building the business case for recalibrating and, most importantly, putting people first by letting them know there is a plan they will engage in together. It is critical to exercise the empathy muscle and be human—people respect that. – Adena Johnston, Lateral Group

7. Incorporate A Design Team Strategy

When this happens, the most powerful transition is to incorporate a design team strategy. Gather a team together that can provide insight and energy and reinvent the path of your vision. Use their energy to bring new actions and accountability and to communicate new possibilities! – Denise Trudeau-Poskas, Blue Egg Leadership

8. Reinspire Your Team With A Fresh Vision

Authentic leaders have courage and conviction. In business and leadership, having a mindset that accommodates a “dare to fail” vision is powerful. We all know that things don’t go according to plan at times, but what really matters is your response to the challenge and how you reinspire your team with a fresh, updated vision and new possibilities. Leaders that can put this into action become iconic and have lasting legacies. – Jon Michail, Image Group International

9. Express Humility And Demonstrate Your Commitment

Humility is one of the most essential characteristics for gaining, maintaining and rebuilding trust. We live in a world that is wholly unpredictable, and no leader has the ability to predict the future. When course correction is in order, leaders who express humility while also demonstrating their unwavering commitment to help get it right will always come out better in the end. – Saba Hasanie, OSC Leadership Performance

10. Share The End Goal And Ask For Suggestions

Be vulnerable. Show and tell that, like your employees, you also need to accept failure and learn from it. At the same meeting, tell them what your end goal is. Ask for suggestions instead of giving a new plan. Apparently, your vision is fallible. It’s not about know-how, but rather about show-how. How do you want your employees to deal with mistakes? Don’t give the answer; show the answer. – Arvid Buit, TRUE Leadership

11. Involve Your Team

Get the team together and have a group conversation. Make it a yearly event to review successes and challenges and let them tell you what could be better. Listen to be present, not for a response. It will give you critical insight and engage the team, making them feel as if they are part of the solution. The change will be expected, and the team will be ready to activate your new vision. – Sara Phelan, Evalu8-Evolve Business Coaching

12. Center Recalibrations And Communications Around Data

You need to be extra careful about how you communicate with people who may not be perceived as your inner circle or clique. No matter what you have done, the perception that you are playing favorites probably exists, fair or not. So you need to make sure recalibrations and communications center around data and data analytics (not personal preferences) as much as you can. Share facts with everyone. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.

13. Use Best Practices In Change Management

Communicating openly and authentically with staff is acceptable to let them know that we must shift our strategy. Today, companies are tasked with becoming more nimble and agile. Using best practices in change management helps to bring the company along when it is time to deploy an alternative strategy. This type of communication helps increase support for a scenario-based strategic approach. – Stacy Soria, Gladegy Consulting, LLC

14. Truthfully Communicate What Went Wrong

Company leaders mistakenly believe that their vision is well-understood by their company. So when course correcting, it is important to communicate the underlying assumptions that drove the vision’s creation and to truthfully tell what the leader (or leadership) got wrong—and right. Be accountable and authentic, and remember that substituting a new, low-conviction vision won’t help. – Ben Levitan, Cedalion Partners