Great leaders must also be great communicators.
At ROCKdotVOSS, we’ve developed a model that identifies four communication principles senior leaders must embrace to be great communicators – and the associated skills to master.
This article takes a closer look at one of our four principles: Disseminating information.
Sharing information with employees, partners and various external stakeholders is a key role for any senior executive, of course. Some might consider this “table stakes” – a basic expectation of the job. And we agree.
Effective information-sharing includes the use of key messages to consistently highlight the leader’s expectations and the organization’s path forward. More experienced communicators become adept at sharpening those talking points and honing the story for maximum impact.
These are important skills, but they address only “what” is being shared. The best executive communicators also focus on “where" and "how.” In practical terms, this means establishing a regular cadence of communication through a variety of vehicles and venues.
Establishing a cadence
We counsel senior leaders and business executives to create a “steady drumbeat” of communication, sharing periodic, pre-planned updates on the organization’s progress. When your key stakeholders know when and where they’ll receive more information, they are more likely to buy in to your message. In this regard, your communications cadence is not simply about scheduled updates – it’s about building trust.
Here are two considerations when building an effective cadence for your organization:
The tyranny of the senior leader’s calendar. Weekly all-employee emails or monthly town halls might sound like a great idea, but busy schedules may not make that possible. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver. Be realistic about what you can provide and when you can provide it. As long as you don’t go dark for long periods of time, your audiences will give you the benefit of the doubt.
Serve no wine before its time. Plan your communications around key business milestones. If you anticipate significant progress on a quarterly basis, establish that expectation with your audience. If your updates are scheduled too frequently, you’ll have little new to say and your audience will tune out.
Leveraging a variety of vehicles
The most effective executive communicators use a variety of channels to disseminate information. Depending on the size and culture of your company and the audience you’re trying to reach, you might tap into face-to-face meetings, video, email or social media, to name a few. But how do you decide which vehicles are best?
Allow the “what” to dictate the “how.” Sensitive and job-specific information about pay, benefits, employment changes or job loss should always be communicated in-person. Controversial or complex information should be delivered in small groups, with opportunity for discussion. Late-breaking company news should be delivered via email, which is your best bet for reaching as many people at one time. In short, let your content guide you to the right channel.
Play to the leader’s strengths. Some executives shine during live events, adroitly handling live Q&A and inspiring the masses with visions of a bright future. Others can craft compelling written copy to outline how each team or department contributes to the organization’s overall success. More recently, some execs have become drawn to the social media space – relishing the opportunity to meet audiences where they are, interacting through punchy bursts of dialogue.
The key is to assess the leader’s preferences and strengths, and then create a vehicle strategy that works for both the disseminator and the people receiving the message.
(c) ROCKdotVOSS 2019