Have you ever left a job because of a bad manager? If so, you’re not alone. A poor experience with managers has caused nearly half of all employees to quit their job.
It’s been said (likely by one of the 50% above) that employees don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. Whether true or not, it’s undeniable that leaders have a profound influence on employees. Their actions, behaviors, and attitudes have the power to drive employees to great success – or to drive them out the door.
As Donald McGannon, renowned Chairman of Westinghouse Broadcasting, said, ‘Leadership is an action, not a position.”
As organizations emerge from the shadow of COVID and position themselves for the future, good leadership is more essential than ever. This is the time for leaders to master leadership communications – and this article shows you how to do it.
Plus download the guide for all the insights and our framework for the new model of leadership.
What is Leadership Communication?
Leadership communication is the top-down delivery of information from employers to employees, with the aim of building knowledge and improving engagement.
Leaders can be at any level of an organization, from owners and C-suite executives to department heads and line managers. While employees will have the most contact with the levels of leadership immediately above them, all levels are able to influence employee engagement and job satisfaction.
Communication objectives differ at each level of leadership. They range from strategic and organizational-wide at the highest levels, to tactical and role-specific at lower levels.
Executives will communicate with staff about company direction, business performance, and change programs. Line managers will communicate directly with employees in their team about personal performance and how proposed changes may affect them.
Why is Leadership Communication Important?
Leadership communication is essential for organizations to progress strategic priorities, maintain a positive working environment and achieve organizational goals.
The importance of communication in leadership can’t be overstated. When leaders connect their people to purpose, accomplishment, and one another, employees are 845% more likely to be highly engaged and 56% less likely to burn out.
When low employee engagement costs companies an average of $3 million every year, the importance of good leadership is clear.
Improving leadership communications means investing in both the skill of communicating and the channels used to manage it. A good leader today needs a different skillset than in the past. Traditional ‘soft skills’ are now essential skills.
Jessica Deckinger, Chief Communications Officer at Everbridge, believes, “Leadership needs to be listening to their teams, communicating openly and transparently, and creating positive, deliberate culture.”
Similarly, new modes of leadership demand new ways of messaging. Internal Communication Managers play a crucial role in connecting employees with leaders. This is particularly important if your organization is operating a hybrid working model.
“Having multiple channels and ways to reach people and break through the noise is more critical than ever”, says Jessica Deckinger.
10 Essential Leadership Communication Skills
Effective leaders today need both sound business nous and excellent interpersonal skills. The ability to communicate well underlies both of these.
We spoke to several top business leaders for their thoughts on what makes a great leader. These are the 10 key skills all agreed are the definition of a good leader in 2022.
1. Visibility – The visibility of leaders is an important ingredient in building trust. Employees value leaders that regularly face up and speak up. Face up to staff and speak up about pressing issues. Doing this increases transparency conveys sincerity and strengthens employee connection.
2. Authenticity – Employees are savvy enough to see through any attempt by leaders to ‘spin the message’. Doing this undermines trust in the message, which can be particularly dangerous when staff can share opinions with peers so readily through social channels.
3. Empathy – Empathic leadership is about seeing staff as human beings and understanding how they feel. Empathy from leaders directly improves employee experience (EX), as revealed in SnapComms EX research.
4. Positivity – Great leaders are visionary. They radiate positivity, inspiring staff with a compelling vision of the future and impelling them to come along for the ride. This strengthens employees’ connection to company purpose, improving productivity and reducing turnover.
5. Honesty – Employees look to leaders as the source of truth. Leadership communications must provide truthful, unbiased, and trustworthy information. But it must be done carefully and deliberately. Communicating badly is worse than not communicating at all.
6. Consistency – Every level of leadership must exhibit the same high standards. Employees experiencing a poor relationship with one manager will see higher-level managers as complicit. A failure at any level is a failure at every level.
7. Active listening – Because the needs of employees are so unique, leaders must become skilled in active listening. This means reading body language, and paying attention to the content, intent, and feeling of staff, whether conveyed online or face-to-face.
8. Clarity – The ability to communicate complex topics in simple ways is important to inform and reassure staff. Leaders must be comfortable translating news and events at the macro level into relatable information on how it matters to the organization and its staff.
9. Flexibility – In times of change, leaders need to be flexible in their approach. Adopting different strategies can provide a significant competitive advantage. Sticking rigidly to what’s been done in the past can result in stagnation and being left behind.
10. Responsiveness – The best leaders are those who are open to doing things better. It’s more than just listening to feedback, it’s acting upon it and using it to guide decision-making. Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas – wise leaders will embrace them from any source.
12 Communication Strategies for Effective Leadership
Effective workplace communication is essential for leaders to build and maintain the working environment necessary for success. The following 12 leadership best practices will help you connect with employees and strengthen engagement.
1. Be proactive with messaging – Don’t wait for government advice. Speak up. Present your honest view to employees, however unpalatable the message. Send out video messages to all employees to personalize leaders and convey sincerity.
2. Act with empathy – Consider the emotional impact of what you’re saying. Be available for questions. Promote the support services accessible to everyone through corporate screensaver messages.
3. Evangelize the future – Help employees visualize the promise of the future. Portray a positive picture of where the organization is headed through digital display screen messages. Broadcast video updates showing how employees are modeling new values.
4. Create a comms plan – Use multiple channels to deliver content in diverse ways. Establish a regular communication plan, incorporating CEO video updates, monthly digital newsletters and town hall meetings.
5. Unify your people – Keep everyone focused on the bigger picture. Encourage employees to see how what they do contributes to your overall mission and values. A regular series of digital newsletters is an excellent way to help reinforce company vision.
6. Coach to improve skills – Ensure all managers lead and communicate well. A series of coaching or mentoring sessions with an independent communication expert can transform a talented group of individuals into a high-performing team.
7. Be good listeners – Introduce a mechanism for better understanding what workers want. Use regular online surveys to give staff a voice. But don’t jump straight to solutions. Listen first, act later.
8. Develop one-on-one relationships – Make time for the individual conversations which strengthen human connection. Jessica Deckinger suggests, “Setting boundaries around those intentional moments where you set aside half an hour every day to connect on a human level with someone.”
9. Emphasize relevance – When delivering content, focus on how it affects employees. Why should they care? Speak directly about what’s happening and who’s involved. This improves relevance and helps make complex scenarios simple and interesting for staff.
10. Refresh your approach – Old-fashioned all-staff emails have their place, but they’re unsuited for engaging staff, promoting company activities or encouraging feedback. Introduce modern digital communication tools which get employee attention across all device types.
11. Champion equality – Be fair and inclusive to all. Ensure employees have equal access to information, benefits and support. Promote a collaborative, accepting environment where staff can bring their authentic selves to work every day.
12. Do what you say you will – The simple act of following through on what is promised does wonders for building trust from employees. Being careful not to over-promise at the beginning makes sticking to what you say easier to achieve.
Download Leadership Communications Guide
The ability for leaders to effectively communicate with and connect to employees is essential. It requires a new model of leadership for our new normal of work.
Download your free guide to delivering exceptional leadership – and connecting leaders with employees through effective communication.