Lessons from Episode 11
8 communication principles of successful strategic leaders
Strategic communication is the practice of being intentional about how we communicate, who we communicate with, and what channels we use. The intention is clear and established, and every aspect of your communication ties back to it in some way. You can make your communication a lot more effective simply by understanding your purpose in communicating and ensuring that purpose shines.
In Episode 11 of Talent Champions, adjunct communication professor Arianne Gasser offers a treasure trove of tips to help you become a strategic communicator.
Organizational culture is created and recreated through communication. Everything we say and do, and everything we don’t say and do, contributes to culture. Building a culture that attracts and retains talent requires leaders to be relentlessly intentional about communication.
Create shared understanding of the purpose of every change. Change initiatives often fail because leaders don’t communicate the information people need to buy in and move forward. Strategic communication is absolutely critical to any change initiative.
Develop key messages using three questions: What are we doing, why are we doing it, and what does this mean for people? Don’t answer these with corporate jargon. Be straightforward and offer the information people need and want to know. Tie back to the overarching vision and reinforce the culture you’re building. When people hear about a change, their natural first thought is to wonder how it will affect them. Address those concerns to help tamp down reactions of fear and emotion.
Consider your audience. Every audience has different needs. You don’t address employees in the same way that you address the board of directors. Identify those needs and adjust your communication appropriately.
What you don’t say is just as important as what you do say. When you leave out details, people scramble to fill in the gaps and begin to react emotionally. They jump to conclusions and inevitably make things worse. For example, say a high-profile employee quits and you make the announcement without explaining why the individual is leaving. People will naturally wonder if the employee is leaving for personal reasons, was forced out, if layoffs are coming, etc. Even if you can’t share the reason, give some level of information and acknowledge that you’re leaving out what people will naturally want to know. If you truly don’t know, say so.
Become a strong storyteller. Understand the characters involved and the roles they play. Who is the hero? What challenge does he face? What does success look like for him? For more on building your storytelling capabilities, check out Donald Miller’s book Building a Story Brand: Clarify your message so customers will listen.
Stay in touch with employees. When senior leaders fail to be strategic in their communications with employees, employees in turn get the sense that senior leaders are out of touch with the employees, the customers, and even the day-to-day business. To break free from that cycle, the senior leaders need to actively promote dialogue and solicit feedback from employees without coming across as condescending. Communicate with your employees like colleagues and watch them buy into your vision.
Strong communicators are strong listeners. Be fully present during interactions, especially if an employee is giving you feedback. Make eye contact, ask questions, and don’t fall into the trap of looking at your phone. When the employee finishes speaking, summarize what you heard and ensure you didn’t miss anything.
Looking for more? Listen to Episode 11, where Diana talks with Arianne Gasser about how successful strategic leaders communicate. New episodes of Talent Champions are released every other Thursday. Subscribe on iTunes or SoundCloud, or sign up for email updates and bonus content.