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Why Leader Messages Are Essential to the Health of Your Organization

Type: Articles
Topic: Leadership and Career Building
By Alison Davis
10 September 2019
Credit: istockphoto.com/kate_sept2004

It’s no secret that the power of leadership communication is its ability to drive results. In fact, strong leader communication is essential to the health of your organization because it stimulates employee engagement by:

  1. Creating focus about your organization’s mission. Employees need to hear where the organization is heading and what it stands for, so it’s best that these messages come straight from the leader. When leaders speak, employees listen. So, the more frequently leaders share messages about your organization’s mission, the more likely employees will understand how to accomplish it.
  2. Building trust. You can’t expect employees to freely grant trust in your leaders. Instead, leaders need to earn it. The more trust your employees place in leaders, the stronger employees’ commitment and confidence in your organization will be.
  3. Dispelling rumors. If you leave employees to draw their own conclusions about difficult topics like organizational change, they may automatically assume the worst. Why? Because in the absence of word from leaders, people create their own messages. However, leaders can get ahead of rumors, pave the way for transformational initiatives to run smoothly and help your organization be the best it can be.

To achieve employee engagement, leaders need to communicate often and well. But that’s not easy. After all, if all your leaders do is recite dry facts, the only thing they’ll accomplish is boring employees.

So, what can you do to ensure your leaders communicate well? When helping them develop content, be sure these messages have the following characteristics.

Compelling

The more emotionally connected employees feel to their leaders, the more trusting they’ll be. Leaders can create this confidence in employees by sharing unique perspectives, speaking from the heart, going off script whenever they can and, most importantly, practicing what they preach.

Instead of this:
“A few months ago, I traveled to various facilities on a listening tour to determine what team members thought about our values. The information we gathered indicated we needed a change.”

Try this:
“During my conversations with team members earlier this year, I heard several of you say that our values are too complicated, too difficult to understand and don’t seem to align with the work that we do. So, I asked our HR team to use your input to simplify our values. I really appreciate all your great ideas. I believe that with them, we’ll be able to develop values that better represent who we are as an organization.”

Authentic

When receiving updates about your organization, employees crave relatable, sincere conversation, not pre-scripted speeches filled with corporate jargon. To build rapport with employees, leaders should stay away from vague, packaged language. Instead, they should strive to be specific and conversational. You can help by writing talking points that meet these standards.

Instead of this:
“Our revamped values are an exciting opportunity for employees. I’m confident that these values will achieve much more synergy within our organization, thereby optimizing how we work and allowing us to better achieve our strategic imperatives.”

Try this:
“I truly believe that our new values express who we are in a simple and compelling way while preserving our organization’s character. They deeply touch me. For example, when I think about ‘Passion,’ one of our new values, I remember how so many of you consistently seek to exceed expectations. That’s why I’m particularly excited about the addition of ‘Passion’ as one of our core values.”

Engaging

Dialogue is a key ingredient in effective leader communication. Employees don’t want to feel like they’re simply receiving orders, they want to feel like they’re part of the process. That means leaders need to create an environment where employees have a chance to talk through topics. You can coach leaders on the importance of answering questions, listening to concerns and asking for ideas. Plus, you can give them a few prompts to help them start a conversation such as, “What challenges do you think we’ll face in achieving our objectives?” or “What questions do you have about this change?”

Instead of this:
“Our initiative to revamp our organizational values will affect various parts of the employee experience, including the performance management process and onboarding.”

Try this:
“We want our new values to be reflected in all parts of our organization, including the performance management process (PMP). We’re currently working on integrating the values into the process and would love to hear your thoughts on how we can do this. What ideas do you have to add values to our PMP?”

Consistent

Leaders need to develop a story and stick with it, as any deviation can cause confusion—or even distrust—among employees. Make sure your leader is armed with materials like a core deck, key messages and frequently asked questions (FAQs). These tools will help leaders stay on message and remember key takeaways.

Instead of this:
During the launch of the new values, your leader explains that the values were updated because they were outdated and no longer represent what the organization stands for. However, when asked how the PMP process is related to the new values during a town hall Q&A session, your leader mistakenly says, “We established new values to create a more effective PMP process.”

Now, employees are confused about why the values were updated: Was it because they no longer reflected the organization’s culture, or because the PMP process wasn’t effective?

Try this:
Provide your leader with a core deck, key messages and FAQs, so he or she knows how to talk about the updated values, as well as what questions to expect from employees.

For instance, your FAQs can include a question regarding the PMP process: “How is the PMP process related to the updated values?” with a clear answer: “We want our new values to be reflected in all parts of our organization, including the PMP. We’re currently working on integrating the values into the process and will keep you updated.”

After reviewing the FAQs, your leader will be able to better remember key takeaways. For example: The values will be reflected in the PMP; however, the PMP is not the reason they were updated.

Now, your leader will be equipped to deliver consistent messages to employees across the globe.

Alison Davis Alison sets the strategic direction for Davis & Company and leads the development of new products and services. Since founding the company in 1984, she has provided senior counsel to clients such as American Water, BD and International Flavors & Fragrances. Alison has written or edited the books 49 Ways to Improve Employee Communications, The Definitive Guide to HR Communication, and Your Attention, Please. An online columnist for Inc.com, she frequently writes articles for leading business and trade publications.

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