As leader communications mainly revolve around messages regarding company culture and core values, which are of significant importance to the key stakeholders – employees, customers, strategic partners, shareholders, government and media. Leadership communication essentially has a direct impact on the company’s vision, mission and ability to embrace change.
And, since we embraced major changes in the last year, thanks to the pandemic, it has opened doors to present opportunities for leaders to take a step back and evaluate their entire communications strategy. Under the dark shadow of the pandemic, many manufacturing organizations were deemed ‘essential’ businesses, and they returned to the “new normal” fast. And, it directed these leaders to develop a complex, multifaceted communications approach in near real-time.
Effective communications with internal teams – employees became particularly important as normal worklife routines were disrupted. Many frontline production employees were asked to continue working after a short shutdown. Worklife transitioned into WFH mode, and professionals had to balance technology and family issues.
Creating effective communications has tested the leadership and management skills of leaders and their teams, as they’ve worked to keep people safe, healthy, well-informed, motivated and productive.
How can leadership communications get it correct? Here are some tips:
• Put employees first: Leadership communications engage with a wide circle that covers government agencies to the news media, employees and so on. What has changed during the pandemic is a significant shift toward employee communications. Any communication to employees highlights clearly that their wellbeing is the top priority. Today communications teams are collaborating with CEOs and leadership teams on exposing the organization’s stand, mindset and principles – with employee health, both physical and mental, at the top of the agenda.
• Empathize, without a doubt: Empathy is important but peaked during the pandemic. Being empathetic means your employees will respect and trust you more. And, if you empathize, it will have a positive impact on your teams’ job performance too.
How can leaders develop empathy? There are various options like – practice listening to your employees without interrupting them; observe your employees and try to gauge how they’re feeling; never ignore your employees’ emotions, but address it; try to understand first rather than form a judgement. It’s critical that to communicate empathy, it must be remembered to suit your body language – to show your team you are sincere and you care.
• Explain complex strategy, simply: Take the effort to break down complex strategies and thoughts into simple concepts your employees can relate to. The more memorable the message is, the better the communication. When simplifying your objectives, be careful not to be vague. You should be clear on what is demanded from your team, and make sure they know exactly what you expect from them. If they don’t understand, then you can lose out on productivity.
• Listen actively, as effective communication is always 2-way: Good leaders know how important is the power of ‘listening’. They know how to ask great questions, but they also listen. It’s easy to be focused on getting your message out, or persuading your team, and very often, you don’t tune in to what you see and hear.
Because you’re in a position of authority, it may happen that you won’t always get direct feedback. So, it is imperative that you need to listen to what is being said, and also study non-verbal cues such as body language.
• Motivate: It is vital for leaders to encourage and motivate their teams – to participate and share their ideas. This will clearly help them become personally invested in their work and the work of the company. Motivation will spread positive vibes around them.
• Feedback: Be open, always. Keeping an open-minded outlook. This encourages your team to provide feedback – including feedback on your communication. Your team will respect you for this. And, you will see that you will be provided with valuable insights into how you are perceived and what you need to work on – all of which will help improve your communication. Today, with everything becoming virtual, you can get also feedback in virtual reality:
• Be yourself – genuine and honest: The best leaders have perceived and understood that effective communication is all about being authentic. It’s important to let your values come through in your communication and, speak in a language that’s distinctly your own. If your team won’t respect you, they won’t listen to you. If you communicate openly and honestly, you may make some mistakes but those mistakes will be better than uninspiring communication. Remember, there may be times when you don’t have the answer (and it’s fine to admit that you don’t). Your employees will respect your courage and honesty.
It’s easier to be truly genuine if you see things from your team’s perspective – put yourself in their shoes!
• Lead by example: By setting an example clearly reveals to your team that you’re capable of doing what you expect from them. It leads to getting the best out of your team. If you won’t follow your own rules and messages then why should your team? This is especially crucial during a crisis or when the company is going through hard times – you need to show the team how to handle the situation. Plus, people have more of a reason to trust you when your actions reflect your words.
• Build teamwork through communication: If you want to build a great team, the sky is the limit. Strong communication lets you attract great team members as you’ll be able to sell a compelling vision for the future. Once you’ve built up a team, it’s communication that helps you retain it – by keeping everyone on the same page!