Five Ways to Keep Leadership Comms Relevant, Impactful, and Human

08/3/2022

Over the past couple of years, many of the status quos we’ve relied upon in our working cultures have been upended. In the wake of this instability, people are looking more and more frequently to leadership to give them a clear sense of focus, stability, and purpose. But as leaders, how, when, and what we communicate may feel less clear than it has in the past—especially in the wake of the Great Resignation.

According to a McKinsey study, nearly two-thirds of US-based employees said that COVID-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life, with nearly half of this group actively re-evaluating the kind of work they do. Add that to increasing global uncertainty and ever-changing working paradigms, and leadership communications can start to feel reactive rather than proactive, disjointed rather than planned.

Our world is changing, and the way we communicate needs to change with it.

As communications experts, we’re focusing not just on emerging trends in event strategy, but also in internal comms—and the ways in which strong, consistent, and practical input from leaders can help bring stability to a workforce even during times of uncertainty.

Here are five key considerations guiding our approach to internal communications strategies for leaders right now:

  1. Keep Calm and Carry On. While it sounds cliché, one of the best things leaders can do to curb uncertainty is remain steady and future focused. Keeping calm and carrying on doesn’t mean carrying on just as you always have, though. It means using your leadership communications to a) acknowledge the challenges you can’t control—things outside your organization that may still have a real effect on your work and your employees’ well-being, b) assure your employees you have a clear point of view about the future—and both the challenges and opportunities it is likely to bring, and c) lay out a plan that is clear, responsive, and actionable.

  2. Get Personal. Your employees are more likely to feel and give their best when they feel a sense of personal connection not just to their work and your organization, but to you. Look for ways to use leadership communications to level the playing field and open up opportunities to share your own personal stories.
    Don’t be afraid to appear vulnerable and be honest about the challenges you see. Recent research shows that people aren’t looking for infallible or omnipotent leadership, but they are looking for transparency, realism, and connection from those in charge. Check out Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead to learn more about being an engaged, people- and process-oriented leader instead of a power-oriented one.

  3. Make Managing Mental Health a Norm. While we aren’t all therapists—and we certainly don’t need work meetings to feel like therapy—we are all more aware than ever of the amount of stress we cope with both in the workplace and outside of it. Be willing to talk about your own stress and challenges as a leader and some of the things going on in your own life. Consider sharing tactics and resources that can help support mental and emotional health, as well as physical. Some examples of great simple apps in this category include Noom and Headspace.

  4. Always Address the “Why”. As we reference in our blog on vision architecture, purpose matters—and it matters at both the macro and micro levels. As leaders our job is both to help employees understand our organization or team’s broader vision and mission, and to help them connect to it in the day-to-day. That means being deliberate and transparent about explaining why we’re making certain decisions, adjustments, or requests. Explaining our rationale clearly to our teams creates buy-in and—when tied effectively to a larger mission or vision—can strengthen a team’s confidence in their purpose.

  5. Think Individually. Create opportunities to show members of your team how their individual efforts contribute to both the team’s and organization’s broader purposes. Share stories of real impact that reinforce the connections between the work an employee takes on every day and the outcomes that work makes possible in the world.

We often talk to our clients about a “Star Performer Strategy.” This may entail a short phone call from a senior leader to a top performer who has options during times of uncertainty. These small moments of personal outreach can be incredibly impactful, helping key staff members to feel seen and respected and protecting against the cost of turnover when a team loses a great contributor.

Uncertainty gives us an opportunity to really evaluate the kind of communications our teams, workforces, and even our clients, are looking for. People appreciate proactive transparency, vulnerability, and planning, but they don’t expect leaders to have all the answers right away—especially when changing circumstances are coming hard, fast, and regularly. I

If you’re feeling reactive or unfocused in how you communicate with your staff right now, take the time to dig into these five considerations and lay out a plan that is adaptable, relational, and change-proof.

At August Jackson, we connect people with brands, culture, and one another, inspiring communities of action to advance their larger mission. Connect with us to see how we can support your next experience.

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