The way we’ve had to communicate with almost everybody in our lives has changed: those we live with, work with and our friends and extended families. We’ve had to adapt the ways we talk to people, or the usual platforms we use, as well as the messages. It’s an odd time to be in constant communication. This is something many of us are used to. Many of us will also thrive on, and get our energy from, being social. For the more extraverted among us, the lockdown has proven that yes, we can still be social however we need to change.
Internal comms are just as important as the messages we are sending to our clients, suppliers and other stakeholders. We need to be super aware of what we’re saying, the frequency at which we are saying it and whether or not it’s sticking with our teams.
I hosted a recent webinar, where we discussed the role of communications and how we can infuse positivity into our teams and beyond by what we’re saying and how we’re saying it.
Here were my top nuggets from the discussion.
Is authenticity the only key to success?
First thing’s first: while authenticity is not necessarily the only key to success, it is important in rallying a team, getting people on side and ultimately driving everyone towards a shared goal. Authentic leaders have generally more loyal and motivated teams, and their employees feel a genuine connection to the goals and purpose of the business. Authenticity doesn’t just mean telling the truth; it means being yourself, showing the good and bad, and treating others how you expect to be treated in return.
Bring your people into the decision-making process
Providing your teams with a roadmap will provide a sense of comfort at this time. While we’re adjusting to a totally new work/life blend, the comfort you’re providing during ‘office hours’ will far extend 6pm and will help you best support your teams during this time.
If you’re not sure of the exact strategy your business is going to follow, you’ll at least be aware of a few of the options. You can lay out the different scenarios and just be honest – it’s okay to say ‘we’re not sure yet’ or ‘I’d like your input’. Bringing your teams into the decision-making process will give them a renewed sense of responsibility and ownership in what you’re doing together.
Use a blended approach to how you share your messages
Broadcast communication is when you share a message to the whole company in one go, and, unfortunately, these have the most potential to go wrong. Your tone, your body language (or what can be gauged from your various video calling software), your enthusiasm will all be interpreted differently, and that’s all before your teams are thinking about the actual words you’re saying!
That said, making whole company announcements is ultimately the quickest and easiest way to get the message out there and to make sure there are no rumours or whispers.
You’ll want to blend your broadcast communications with a cascade approach: engage your senior managers in a core group to share and discuss the update. They can then set up meetings with their own teams, where they’ll discuss in a downwards manner what the message is, what it means and then the team can talk about the practical impacts it will have on them and their jobs respectively.
Practice the four Es of human change
The four Es of human change are to educate, engage, empower and enable and we can very simply apply these principles to the way we communicate to help our messages pack a real punch and make the most sense. Educating through comms means to provide background, logic and to explain the impact. To engage through comms is a consistent, two-way dialogue which evolves over time and helps our teams to intellectually and emotionally buy into change. Engaged people will be ready to support change as and when it comes about.
Enabling is to give the practical tools needed for success. What resources to do we need? How much time roughly should this take? When do we need this achieved by? When people are supported within the right environment then they can build the confidence to interact and create solutions. It is this interaction which is crucial in delivering lasting change.
To empower means to help with application and give instructions, which will turn to motivation and responsibility.
Look after yourself!
As much as your team’s wellbeing will be at the forefront of your mind right now, it’s important to remember that you need to look after yourself. As business leaders, we are spending so much time making sure the words we’re saying, and the enthusiasm we are conveying is right for our teams and is helping support them during this time. It’s important to remember that this situation is not easy, and it’s only fair to give yourself the same treatment. Simply saying ‘I don’t know the answer to that yet’ or ‘I’m not having a great day’ are small, actionable things which will take the pressure off!