Tips for Communicating Your Strategy
As we mentioned in our last blog, communication is the single most overlooked secret to a successful strategy. This is because the success of any strategy is directly dependent on the people implementing it. And if those people don’t understand it well, or they’re not communicating effectively, the outcome can end up being very different than the original intention.
Communication is key to every action you take in your organization. When communication is flowing well, it supports an organization’s strategic objectives, strengthens community, and moves its culture forward. But when people aren’t hearing the right information at the right time, it can lead to confusion. Which can lead to frustration, reduced productivity, and rumours that can work contrary to what you are trying to accomplish. At its worst, if frustration continues to build, it can result in the loss of key employees, along with what it costs to replace them.
Communicating well can be a broad and overwhelming topic, specifically because it involves ‘everyone’. We’ve put together a few best practices below to help support your team. Just like your strategic plan, you need to approach communications with a strategic eye.
There are two key areas that need to be aligned to minimize mixed messages or competing agendas.
a. Having a leadership team that supports a strategic communications plan is important. We mentioned last time that research is now showing that CEOs are beginning to understand communicating well is a ‘part of their strategy’ not an afterthought. This is key because whoever's responsible for communication needs to be included in leadership and management meetings so they’re aware of the management agenda. This way they can not only bring information to the group, but they can also act proactively if they’re seeing or hearing things that might present a problem. It just doesn’t work as well when you’re dealing with second or third-hand information.
b. Making sure internal messaging is aligned with external messaging is also really important. If what employees are being told by leadership is different than the messaging given to the public, you will have a trust and credibility problem. The easiest way to get around this is to ensure that whoever is responsible for the external marketing messages and the person responsible for internal implementation messaging spend time together so they can make sure there aren’t any conflicting storylines.
2. Support Your Managers
Managers and supervisors are two key links in the communication chain because they’re the ones who have to demonstrate daily the direct connection between what their people are expected to be doing and the bigger broader picture or strategic plan. They’re also the ones who get the questions or pushback from their teams, and this is often where the communication breakdown can begin.
The best thing you can do as a leader is to support your managers. Empower them to have the right conversations with their teams and then hold them accountable. Include communication as part of their management training, provide them with key messaging in a form they can reference, and make communication one of their performance indicators to demonstrate your commitment to doing it well.
3. Think Beyond Email
Statistics show that employees spend 28% of their workweek managing their inboxes. None of us need more emails. And we all know that a personal conversation is far more effective than an email message. But in this pandemic world of ours, face-to-face is much more difficult than usual and we’re likely all near the end of our tethers with Zoom calls.
Consider a video message, rather than an email. Today’s technology has made it very easy to record a message from your desk. And the less produced and glossy and more real, the better. Think about how much more interesting it would be to get an update from your manager via video, than a long email. Video allows for emotion, personality, and intention to come through loud and clear.
Consider picking up your phone and recording a monthly message about your strategic plan and what it means to everyone in the organization. Talk about the impact it can have for those you serve. Talk about how it aligns with your organizational values and those of your staff. Share the progress that’s been made. Whatever the message, keep it clear, simple, and concise. And don’t forget a call to action at the end. It’s a creative way to bypass the awkwardness of video calls and provide a message they can listen to at their leisure, again and again, if they choose.
The bottom line is whatever format you chose, the important thing is that you communicate. Think about the audiences who need to know what you have to say and then pick a way that will resonate with them. Encourage conversation. You need the information they have, as much as they need to hear from you. The more you practice, the easier it will become and the more impactful it will be.
“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”