There’s a lot riding on C-suite executives. As well as guiding the organization’s strategic direction, they fulfill a critical role in executive communication. Theirs is the voice employees look to for wisdom, certainty, and assurance.
Business operations change to meet the competitive environment. Mergers and acquisitions involve uneasy transitions. Periods of economic downturn demand sensitive handling of restructures.
Rarely has the importance of great executive communication ever been higher. Without it, employees lose motivation, the business loses momentum and performance suffers.
Executive communication is essential for stabilizing the corporate ship during turbulent waters. Make sure your C-suite leaders maximize their efforts with these rules for improving executive communication and getting employee buy-in.
1. Embody Ideals
Like it or not, C-suite executives are role models for employees. Their behavior is studied, assessed, and emulated by employees seeking assurance on the correct way to act.
Leaders must embody the ideals they wish their staff to exhibit. Positive behavior, purposeful and consistent. Display candor in all communications – this is proven to lift market performance.
Acting at odds with these ideals sends a signal to staff that inconsistent behavior is permissible. This undermines faith in leadership and erodes workplace culture.
For Chris Leonard, CEO of SnapComms, clarity is the most important quality for good executive communication. “It’s essential to be succinct, and for messages to be relatable. They must provide direction so that staff are armed with the information they need and encouraged to strive towards the common goal.”
Particularly during times of uncertainty or change, leaders must be a paragon of positive behavior. Lead and the workforce will follow.
2. Strengthen Vision
A strong vision, communicated consistently, must underpin all executive communication. Clear goals and a roadmap to achieve them provide staff with assurance that the organization’s actions are necessary – and will deliver results.
In every piece of executive communication, ask the question ‘how does this demonstrate our vision?’ If it doesn’t, staff are likely to respond with ‘so what?’. Meaningful, authentic communication keeps efforts focused on what matters, promotes unity, and mitigates any inter-departmental squabbling.
Communication tools like computer screensavers can be used to reinforce the company's vision and key messages. This can be effective in doing the ‘heavy lifting’ of building message awareness between leadership updates.
The way leaders present themselves is crucial in successfully conveying vision. Confidence in delivery builds the credibility of the message. C-suite executives uncomfortable in this role will require coaching to develop their executive presence.
3. Increase Visibility
In times of organizational change, it’s important for leaders to be seen. This is more than just a demonstration of solidarity. Nearly a third of employees believe that the visible presence of leaders helps improve company performance.
Invisible leaders foster a sense of ‘closed-door culture’. In the absence of transparency, rumors take hold. For that reason, internal communications must plan a series of updates to maintain executive visibility.
These needn’t always be face-to-face. Dispersed branch networks or remote locations make in-person communications difficult. Employ video alerts to deliver messages from C-suite executives in an engaging way that all staff can access. Emotions can be conveyed in a way that enhances message believability and encourages staff to get on board.
4. Maximize Reach
Executive communication can’t be treated as a ‘one and done’ exercise. Regular high-level updates are essential, even if the temptation is that there’s nothing new to say. More than a quarter of staff feel better about their jobs and the company if they see or hear from leaders on a regular basis.
Maximizing staff attendance of leadership updates can be difficult, particularly if multiple, smaller sessions are being offered. Managing these sessions can be easier with customized meeting invitations via RSVP alert. Attendee numbers, transport requirements, or catering preferences may all be seen at a glance, and resources allocated accordingly.
It’s likely that certain staff are a higher priority than others in terms of attendance. Message targeting permits inviting key members of staff first, after which opportunities can be made available for remaining employees.
These sessions provide valuable outlets for employee questions and feedback. However, good leaders will go beyond simply listening to feedback – they will anticipate the questions and be prepared.
5. Be Forearmed
Fostering dialogue with staff can be challenging. It places an enormous drain on executive time and can distract from core responsibilities. However, it can also provide leaders with the valuable context of how communications are being received ‘on the ground’.
It’s useful to collect questions and concerns using employee surveys prior to face-to-face executive communication. This will help ensure that the tone and content of meetings hit the mark. It also means that leaders are armed with the information they need to address issues and engage employees.
Particularly for less confident C-suite executives, this permits greater control of messaging – without appearing contrived. Areas left unresolved may then be tackled through executive blogs and subsequent executive communication to keep the conversation going.
A range of skills is required of today’s C-suite executives. Internal communication may not be a skill that comes naturally to some but is one they must become confident in. Executive communication is a powerful conduit for building employee buy-in and marshaling the support to deliver what the business needs.