Whilst leadership teams are comprised of managers with different personalities and varying communication abilities, all members of this senior team are required to communicate the relevant company messages with clarity. These company messages include, but are not limited to, vision, mission, values, strategy, targets, expected behaviour, culture, focus areas, future plans and direction. The same messages and their rated importance levels should be adopted and shared by board members, shareholders and managers alike. They need to be communicated consistently, with clarity and with the right dose of passion. The messages need to be “published”, as it were, through the vocabulary that is used, manager body language and subsequent aligned behaviour, day-to-day conversations and team meetings, in as many communication channels as possible. This internal communication “strategy” then starts moulding the culture into desirable behaviour patterns and brings focus to the operational environment.
Many employees have exited a company presentation and have noted: “What was the CEO talking about?” or “My boss doesn’t talk to us about these things”. Many leaders don’t take the time to communicate with their teams or, if they do, don’t define specifically what they mean when they use generalised terms or clichés. They don’t want to feel that they are talking down to people by providing what seems like unnecessary detail or context. Leaders simply assume that the exact meaning of their words is obvious. They are surprised to learn, not only that their message has been unclear, but that their teams crave definitions so they aren’t forced to guess what the boss has in mind.
An effective company internal communications strategy requires the following ingredients:
- Leadership clarity and ownership of the message – being “on the same page” and buying into the desired impact of the message is paramount if the message is to be conveyed to employees effectively. Managers can’t nod assent at the leadership meeting, walk away and do nothing about it or worse, talk about the message negatively.
- Agreement on the “pictures” of the message – every company message should have pictures associated with the concept (that is, “when we are doing this well, it will look like this”). Employees should be able to latch on to images of a job done well. Terms (and especially clichés) need some defining if they are to be understood.
- Continuity of the message – frequent references to the language and images of the messages that need communicating. Managers should always, with every activity, challenge or opportunity, draw a dotted line back to crucial messages (their meaning and their importance).
- Understanding of the message – checking whether employees have grasped the message in its entirety is always an important aspect of any communications strategy. Care should be taken to check levels of understanding.
- Behavioural consistency with the message – managers must “walk the talk” and set an example in relation to the message. If not done well, mixed messages confuse the company culture and environment.
- Recognition offered in relation to the message – acknowledgement of employee alignment to expected behaviours is not only important to reinforce these behaviours, but also mission-critical for the company to achieve its objectives.
- Celebration of message “wins” – when goals are achieved or behaviour has been transformed, all in the company should celebrate successes. Creative celebrations demonstrate the willingness of the company to reward good behaviour.
Managers need to communicate company messages with clarity and conviction. A communications strategy requires all in leadership to be on the same page, have great levels of understanding and equal doses of passion regarding the dissemination of relevant pieces of information.