June 5, 2023 Content Chat Recap: How to Overcome Change Fatigue in Content Marketing

A Content Chat header image that says today’s topic is overcoming change fatigue in content marketing with guests Jenny Magic, who is @JennyLMagic on Twitter, and Melissa Breker, who is @MelissaBreker on Twitter.

In 2016, 74% of employees reported that they were willing to support organizational changes. In 2022, just 38% felt the same, according to a Gartner study.

In analyzing this difference, the research suggests that workers become increasingly burnt out from change when they feel their organization views them as an employee, not a person. It’s the way that leaders manage changes that can fuel burnout or encourage healthy innovation—and we want to help you accomplish the latter.

In this #ContentChat recap, Erika joins Jenny Magic and Melissa Breker to discuss how to overcome change fatigue in content marketing.

Read through a few highlights from the conversation below, and listen to the full audio recording here. Jenny and Melissa share plenty of actionable tips and insights from their book Change Fatigue: Flip Teams From Burnout to Buy-In. If you want to dig more into the topics below, we encourage you to get your copy of their book today!

Q1: In what ways are content marketing and other leaders inadvertently fueling their team members’ burnout?

There are many actions that inadvertently fuel burnout in content marketing:

Constantly shuffling priorities…

A1a: They constantly shuffle priorities, not giving teams enough time to get traction. #ContentChat

— Jenny Magic (@JennyLMagic) June 5, 2023

Conflating “new” with “urgent” (avoid shiny object syndrome!)…

A1b: They conflate newness with urgency. Often the new shiny object (Chat GPT, anyone?) that teams are supposed to pivot to evaluate and incorporate. Constant pivots are exhausting. #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

Failing to consider dependencies…

A1c: They don’t consider dependencies and are reactive to requests from other teams #ContentChat

— Jenny Magic (@JennyLMagic) June 5, 2023

A1: Not accounting for variable production times. ⏰

Consider all the moving parts including collaborative activities, such as research & design #ContentChat

— Sweepsify 🎈 (@Sweepsify_) June 5, 2023

Having too much work in progress…

A1d: They have too much work in progress and struggle in a diverse and chaotic environment #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

Not knowing how to establish healthy power dynamics…

A1e: They may lack an understanding of where power comes from and how to best use it (influence and positional power) #ContentChat

— Jenny Magic (@JennyLMagic) June 5, 2023

And overlooking the cumulative effect of every small ask. 

A1f: They don’t consider the cumulative effect of the small asks (death by 10,000 papercuts) #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

The following are a couple of notable snippets from the audio recording:

“The great thing we often find with the organizations that we work with is that [facilitating healthy change] takes more than what people are doing right now, for sure, but it often takes less than people think. It often just takes a different perspective. To Jenny’s point earlier, the ability to slow down a little bit and engage people in different ways—just like we do with our content and our external audiences—[is important]. It’s being able to shift that engagement to our internal team to support people in a different way.” – Melissa Breker

“If we try to rush through anything and hurry up to meet all those deliverables—or hurry up and completely change the way that we’re approaching something—we’re setting ourselves up for failure, and we’re setting people up for feeling bad about creating poor quality content or doing a bad job at distributing that content.” – Erika Heald

Q2: When facing a challenge, how should marketing leaders engage their team to understand the problem and potential solutions?

Content marketing leaders should slow down to ensure their team understands—and agrees on—why and how they do things or are changing things. Bring people into these conversations earlier and empower them to explain how they view the current problem or situation. 

A2a: Leaders need to slow down. Visionary leaders are often jumping ahead and skipping steps. Teams need to understand and agree on the WHY and the HOW #ContentChat

— Jenny Magic (@JennyLMagic) June 5, 2023

Every minor change comes at a cost, so teams should assess the pros and cons of any change they consider. Focus on the “what’s in it for me” for your internal team.

A2b: Specifically, be wary of solutions in search of a problem; ensure “change tokens” are being spent on priority projects. Even minor change has a cost #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

Effective leaders will ask questions and gain insight from their team members to form the strategy.

A2c: Leaders also need to come with questions versus answers. By asking for their insights, you can take their perspective and clarify their wins. #ContentChat

— Jenny Magic (@JennyLMagic) June 5, 2023

Jenny, Melissa, and Erika share more about the importance of fully exploring a potential problem before finding a solution:

“One of the reasons that people are resistant to change is that they weren’t part of the process of defining the problem and articulating what needed to evolve. So by the time they hear that a change is happening, it’s predetermined, being dictated, and [does not offer] a lot of wiggle room. They’re supposed to just accept it. Obviously, that is a recipe for stronger resistance. Slow down, help them understand the problem—and make sure you actually have a problem.” – Jenny Magic

“Plan for some resistance. To Jenny’s point, it often comes to ‘here’s the solution and here’s the timeline’. But if we actually engage people and create the vision together, then people are more likely to buy in. Resistance is often an indicator that people just aren’t ready for the change; that you need to invite them in a different way. Engaging and getting their feedback can often give you really great clues about what you need to change.” – Melissa Breker

“Make sure that you get the people who are going to be impacted by the change involved in both defining the problem and the solution. I think sometimes you can see in corporate settings, too, that the ‘problem’ can be one individual’s problem, and then an entire organization can be shifting things around in order to accommodate that one person. That feels bad for everybody. And those are the situations where you’re going to get someone—and possibly a star performer—quitting.” – Erika Heald

Q3: Forcing change within a team can make people feel like they have no autonomy in their work. How can marketing leaders more effectively sell their vision to gain genuine buy-in?

Invite team members to take an active role in defining the problem and exploring potential solutions. When people feel they have been involved in the process, they will be more willing to support your change. 

A3a: Invite them into the problem definition conversations. Teams resist change because they disagree with how the problem was scoped. Even if the designed solution is the same, inviting them to see that along with you increases the likelihood of supporting. #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

Forcing change can spark fear. Explain why changes are happening and seek to understand your various team member’s perspectives.

A3b: When we force change, we activate a fear response in our team members’ brains. This perceived threat can challenge how people perceive well-being, self-image, or identity. As Simon Sinek says “Start with Why” and understand their interests and perspective. #ContentChat

— Jenny Magic (@JennyLMagic) June 5, 2023

A3c: Consider motivations, choices and knowledge and commit to supporting them through the change. #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

Provide customized support to team members to help them overcome potential fears about the change:

“Fundamentally, all change is personal. I can share a vision for something and people can perceive it differently even though we’re all pointing in the same direction. If we’re able to look at what people can commit to and their previous knowledge, and offer them support that’s relevant to them, then people are more likely to buy in around the change. If you’re going to be rolling out a new technology, let them know about how they’re going to get training. Let them know the kind of support that they’re going to receive in advance so they can feel confident that you’ll be there to get them across the line.” – Melissa Breker

“Everybody’s motivated by different things. Some of your team members are going to feel more confident and certain if they have training opportunities. Others are going to feel like their time is valuable and being asked to show up for three required trainings is a huge burden and they would rather receive their information in a different way. Like we do with our marketing audiences, [ask] which channel is most appropriate. How do [your team members] personally prefer to receive information? Those questions are really, really applicable to your internal audience.” – Jenny Magic

Q4: How should content marketing leaders address potential power struggles within their team?

Leaders need to balance the invisible incentives that Melissa explains below:

A4a: Be aware of all the various rewards and incentives at play on your team. It’s not just time and salary. Flex time, headcount, tools, budget flexibility, the boss’s ear – these are all invisible incentives leaders need to balance #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

his is so critical to understand—it’s what’s at play in workplaces around the globe where leaders are telling people to return to the office—missing the boat on the value autonomy and flexibility have for workers. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketer | Writer (@SFerika) June 5, 2023

Regularly ask your team if they feel there is a power imbalance and what would feel like a fair solution to them.

A4b: Ask! In your 1:1 meetings with your team, ask if they see power imbalances and what would feel fair to them. #ContentChat

— Jenny Magic (@JennyLMagic) June 5, 2023

A4c: And if asking feels insane in your work culture, work on your psychological safety domains #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

Genuinely listen to your team’s questions and perspectives, and acknowledge these needs as you seek to solve any power struggles. 

A4d: Acknowledging how people are feeling is one way to help create a path through power struggles. Activating questions early and communicating often can help close down the rumor mill and ensure information is being shared up and around the organization. #ContentChat

— Jenny Magic (@JennyLMagic) June 5, 2023

Listen to the audio recording starting at 27:25 to learn about the importance of confidential inquiry (Jenny explains that in Q5) and ways to understand how team dynamics actually work. 

“To reduce power struggles, it’s often about being able to have frank conversations with people or talking specifically to behaviors that we see. Asking questions around ‘I notice this is happening, can you tell me more about additional support you need?’ Or if people are shutting down, you come with curiosity and questions like ‘I noticed this is happening, are there some other things going on that we should be aware of? Askign questions is a great starting to understand what may be happening.” – Melissa Breker

“Power struggles come from a place of fear. It’s your job as a leader to first acknowledge that your team probably has some power dynamics that need to be addressed, and it’s your job to address them. A lot of leaders are uncomfortable in this space, and they can look the other way and sort of say ‘well I didn’t exactly see that happen, so I don’t have to address it.’ And that’s fine, that’s one way of being. But you’re not going to create a psychologically safe team unless you actively intend to weed out power struggles that are happening.” – Jenny Magic

Q5: What are some strategies for helping marketing team members balance their individual motivations and overflowing work responsibilities?

Leaders should ask their team members about what motivates them as individuals. 

A5a: Make sure your leader knows what motivates you! So often, leaders assume what motivates them works for their team, and we’re all individuals #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

It’s so rare for leaders to take the time to ask their team members what motivates them, and how they prefer to receive praise. Yet, it’s such a powerful conversation to have to build a trust-based relationship!#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketer | Writer (@SFerika) June 5, 2023

A5c: Ask for help and understand other team member’s strengths. #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

Team members should feel comfortable speaking up if they feel a task on their plate is unnecessary or if they are not the best fit to handle it. Leaders need to take an active role in helping team members balance their priorities. 

“Everybody has a chunk of work on their to-do list that they feel is unnecessary and a waste of time, but for some reason it’s on their to-do list. The best thing you can do as a leader is try to get the psychological safety on your team so they can articulate that and then you can can either take it off their list, deprioritize it, assign it to someone else who doesn’t feel that way, or really get clear about why it can’t be moved. One of the ways that we found really successful for doing that is what we call confidential inquiry—basically just cone of silence conversations that you are trying to pull out these kind of things that your team may or may not be comfortable telling you in a certain setting. Often, these are with an outside person or someone from a different team, just a place where they can say ‘I keep getting these new requests and I think this whole category of work we’re doing isn’t going anywhere.” – Jenny Magic

“I hear leaders say ‘Oh, I don’t micromanage, I just hire people smarter than me and then I let them figure it out.’ While I believe the intention behind that statement is good, what it often means is ‘I overload my workers and I don’t give them any guidance about how they’re supposed to prioritize, and I just expect it all to get done.” – Jenny Magic

Q6: What is psychological safety, and how can you build it into your content marketing team culture?

The term ‘psychological safety’ came out of Harvard research in the 90s assessing what makes a high-performing team. Amy Edmonson of Harvard wrote The Fearless Organization to explore psychological safety in the workplace.

Per Jenny, Amy says that psychological safety has four domains: open conversation (being able to speak the truth, hear the truth, and give good feedback), willingness to help (how likely is the team to pick up the slack for another), inclusivity (the open conversations and willingness to help is truly inclusive of the entire team), and attitude toward risk and failure (having a healthy approach when something doesn’t work). 

A6a: Most simply, #psychologicalsafety is feeling safe to speak up with ideas, questions, concerns, or even make mistakes #ContentChat

— Jenny Magic (@JennyLMagic) June 5, 2023

A6b: Study after study, from Harvard to Google, has shown that a team’s PSI is the only consistent predictor of success #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

A6c: Teams should benchmark and discuss their PSI. Check out the scan at https://t.co/DPtaq8dyNk (we’re certified to support this process!) #ContentChat

— Jenny Magic (@JennyLMagic) June 5, 2023

A6d: Research shows inclusivity, understanding, and engagement are key to feeling like people feel safe within teams. Knowing that someone has your back can make a big difference when people need to adapt and adjust how they work together. #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

“The fundamental part about psychological safety is that you feel safe to speak up with ideas. If you have questions or concerns, or even make a mistake, that’s part of what we do. From a leadership perspective, being vulnerable and actually expressing concerns is another really practical thing that people can do, so people feel safe enough to do it, too. We need to mirror the behaviors that we want others to have and to show. I’ve seen in teams that have made a big difference actually acknowledging when things don’t go right and using the term like ‘this was an experiment’ or ‘we’re piloting this.’ We’re not exactly sure we expect these kinds of outcomes, but we’re going to circle back and have a look and we’ll be learning either way.” – Melissa Breker

Q7: What are steps that content marketing leaders can take today to help their teams overcome change fatigue?

Melissa, Jenny, and the community share their advice for overcoming change fatigue:

A7a: Ensure you’re only spending change tokens on important, agreed-upon problems #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

A7b: Include team members in the problem scoping and solution definition. Use a shared decision framework to choose objectively #ContentChat

— Jenny Magic (@JennyLMagic) June 5, 2023

A7c: Get executive sponsorship for the change so leaders support and reward with their attention and social capital #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

A7d: Build a Stakeholder Assessment Matrix to see who will be impacted by the change and what they need most #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

A7e: Use Personas and journey maps – they work for internal communications, too! #ContentChat

— Jenny Magic (@JennyLMagic) June 5, 2023

A7f: Use Confidential Inquiry to uncover private concerns and resistance. Communicate what you’re hearing and how you’re responding to feedback #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

A7g: Know that resistance is normal, healthy, and not personal. Leave time for people to process through resistance to support. #ContentChat

— Jenny Magic (@JennyLMagic) June 5, 2023

As a content creator, letting go of taking feedback personally was transformational. As a marketing leader, the same was true for not taking responses to ideas personally. It’s rarely all about you—it’s about the person who is being affected.#ContentChat https://t.co/kwZ6tNGuhs

— Erika Heald | Content Marketer | Writer (@SFerika) June 5, 2023

A7h: Flex the solution to match team needs and motivations #ContentChat

— Melissa Breker (@melissabreker) June 5, 2023

A7i: Set realistic expectations, knowing that bumps along the way are normal and should be expected. Performance will dip as people learn the new ways of working together. #ContentChat

— Jenny Magic (@JennyLMagic) June 5, 2023

This is so critical, Jenny. It’s unrealistic to expect a full workload to proceed as per usual when an organization tackles a change initiative.#ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Content Marketer | Writer (@SFerika) June 5, 2023

A7. Limiting obstacles that may come up over 3, 6 months while filling strategic plans. Knowing each person strong points and weak points. Having back up help in times of high output over shorter turnaround times. #ContentChat

— Kathy Van Duzer, M.A. (@katwife) June 5, 2023

I wish more leaders would ask “What are you interested in doing? What new skills would you like to develop?” People often do better work when they’re given opportunities to do things they love doing while also strengthening some of their weaknesses. #ContentChat

— Alek Irvin (@AlekIrvin) June 5, 2023

Yes, yes, yes! When I was in-house, I asked my team members to work with me on creating a career development plan. That way, we could identify their goals, and work on a path to get them there, together.https://t.co/waFwDvShHE#ContentChat https://t.co/upuJ02oFKO

— Erika Heald | Content Marketer | Writer (@SFerika) June 5, 2023

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