It’s no secret that leaders are being challenged in ways that are very different… at the vortex and velocity of socio-economic pressures for change and a continuing COVID impact.
As one CEO shared, “It’s the perfect storm and it’s not going away. I’m without a reliable compass to guide us.”
Often mentioned by CEOs is the heightened priority of effectively communicating with all stakeholders. Yet, while trying to find their voice, for many it’s been a struggle to deliver facts and business updates with true concern (personal and professional) for those with whom they are communicating.
In recent discussions with CEOs and a roundtable of CHROs, we asked them what is and is not resonating, as well as what they have learned.
Effectively Communicate/Sincerity…Without Pandering
As trust is THE organizational glue, teams and their associates want to hear frequently from the very leaders with whom they place their faith and livelihood. Associates invest themselves into their companies and leaders. In return, they expect those leaders, during times of uncertainty, to keep everyone regularly informed and be clear about what they do and do not know, the challenges that must be addressed, and what’s important now.
Tell it Like it is… Avoid Fluff, Unbridled Optimism, or Pessimism
In conversations that we held before March 13th, we asked CEOs with confidence, “how far into the future could they see?” The common answer was less than a year… most said six months. The general sense was that the speed of change was accelerating and that to predict strict paths forward was not only tricky, but fraught with risk. Now, the future is even less clear.
Leadership teams and their associates rightfully seek a transparent assessment of current conditions and what their leaders believe will impact their organization going forward. They recognize that their leaders aren’t infallible, nor futurists, and don’t expect perfect information. But, they seek honest communication and a dialogue.
At Every Organizational Level, Communicate with Empathy and Humility
While CEOs have made efforts to communicate via videos, virtual town halls, et al (and CEOs like Steve Voorhees of WestRock who is omnipresent at operational sites), the key to effectiveness oftentimes centers on who delivers the messages. Successful communication blends the top of the house messages with similar, consistent and frequent communications by direct supervisors, those that touch associates daily.
Communicating, regardless of the messenger or medium, must be consistent at all levels, delivered with heart felt empathy and concern… and by leaders, whom can be counted upon and trusted… and then we, together, will emerge stronger.
The Bottom Line
The CEOs and CHROs with whom we spoke felt strongly that improving communication and its cadence is a real opportunity to build trusted and enduring relationships among your various stakeholders. This is especially critical to fully engage and retain your most critical assets… executive talent and talent pipelines.
Keep in mind “words matter,” especially now. Be genuine and honest. Your leadership stock within your organization will rise or fall on your transparency, clarity, compassion, and action.
Written by Joel Koblentz and Alok Gupta
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