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Empathy Is the Heart of Successful Institutional Change

Many colleges and universities are facing changes in a difficult environmental landscape. As leaders navigate key structural changes, they need to attend not only to what they change, but how they communicate that change. Patti Sanchez, chief strategy officer at Duarte, Inc., shares her experience in Harvard Business Review:

I’ve observed the same thing time and time again: how information is communicated to employees during a change matters more than what information is communicated. A lack of audience empathy when conveying news about an organizational transformation can cause it to fail.

Studies on organizational change show that leaders across the board agree: if you want to lead a successful transformation, communicating empathetically is critical. But the truth is that most leaders don’t actually know how to do it. In fact, at Duarte, the communication consultancy where I’m Chief Strategy Officer, we conducted a survey of over 200 leading company executives and found that 69% of respondents said that they were planning to launch or are currently conducting a change effort. Unfortunately, 50% of these same execs said they hadn’t fully considered their team’s sentiment about the change. Worse, about half said they were just approaching the change “going on gut.”

Read Patti’s suggestions for empathetic communication here.