It is interesting to study the gap between the intention of communication and the perception of communication in the context of leadership. “We’re going to do X going forward” can be interpreted as “You’re doing a crappy job at Y so we’re going to try X now” or “We decided that it is better to do X instead of Y because we had a meeting you weren’t invited to since we don’t really value your opinion” and the list of interpretations goes on.

In my experience perception rarely matches intention, so figuring out how to change your message to get across what you actually intended is a fun challenge.

There are probably many ways to do it successfully, but I only have experience with a few so I’ll share those (YMMV).

Earn the trust of those impacted

Earning trust takes time. Time spent learning about someone, how to communicate with them, what they are passionate about, understanding their fears.

I like to take people out to lunch, video chat, pair program on a code kata, or help with a problem they are having.

This is the first opportunity to be a servant leader I think. Serve the people you lead and, more likely than not, you will gain their respect and trust.

Give ownership

When someone is going to change the way I work, what I’m working on, or who I’m working with, the psychological toll of that change can be greatly reduced if I feel like I have control over my own destiny.

I look forward to working with leaders that engage me and get me involved in the decision-making process. They ask things like “What do you think about doing X instead of Y; what would be the benefits and what would be the drawbacks?”

Asking for, listening, and reacting to my feedback gives me ownership of an idea, even if it was not my own. Reacting is not necessarily implementing my feedback, but this process of involvement changes the way the idea was communicated and perceived.

Avoid surprises

There is a bonus to talking one-on-one with everyone on a team about an idea before announcing it at a meeting or in an email. You avoid surprises. Turns out not many people enjoy surprises, unless it’s a surprise party.

Having an opportunity to hear and discuss an idea before it is executed gives me time to get comfortable with it. If you have gained my trust then I also feel like I have time to provide feedback before the idea becomes reality.