There are a number of skills, in the eyes of many employees, which make a manager “good” – ability to articulate concepts well, knowledge of the industry, story-telling skills, humour, presence, listening ability, etc. All these skills are important indeed and work together to create a great employee experience. They probably also engender a sense of emotional buy-in and ownership amongst team members. They do spark interest and get the creative juices flowing, but these things alone are insufficient. There needs to be significant connection to the company strategy and its execution if the manager’s leadership is to be viewed as excellent. The same is true of both internal (company managers at whatever level) and external consultants. Both need an intimate understanding of the strategy, execution plan and expected team outcomes in order to channel employee thoughts and creative attempts appropriately.
Return on investment is paramount for the company – investment in terms of time, resources and money. As such, whatever is accomplished in communication attempts must translate directly into enhanced execution of the strategy (better attitude, laser focus, energy directed appropriately, healthier teamwork, etc.). There is perhaps a place to “tickle the minds” of the employees, but ultimately employees should walk away with action steps with appropriate milestones and other measures in place for a reasonable return to be realised.
The manager should focus on the following team communication preparation steps to enable a great return for the company:
- Understand the brief fully – what the company wants from the team and why the team exists in the first place (e.g.: “our team exists for the following reasons … the company wants us to achieve the following …”).
- Understand the expected outcomes – what the company is expecting as a finished product (e.g.: managers should be able to communicate the “big picture” with clarity).
- Understand the issue behind the performance problem – what the company perceives as the issue that needs to get fixed (e.g.: “our call centre employees need to perform so as to offer better customer service”).
- Understand the intended results that the company is hoping for – the company has a goal in mind, although not often explicit (the manager needs to find it). Ask questions (e.g.: “so, if we gave the team leaders the appropriate coaching skills and they applied them well with their team members, thus enhancing customer service, what would that do for you?” “Well, it would grow our reputation, our brand and hopefully result in more sales”).
- Interview as many key people as possible – short meetings with human resources representatives, the call centre manager/s, all team leaders and operational director, if possible. Their respective perspectives on issues will be very helpful in making your leadership communication relevant.
- Check understanding – once interviews are complete, report back, for example, to the call centre manager/s to ensure that you have a common understanding.
- Plan post-implementation measurement and follow-up – before commencing with your communication, together with the manager/s and team leaders decide on appropriate measurements and the methodology to be followed to reinforce the learning.
The manager should not just be able to understand and present the content of the company strategy well, but also understand the company context to customise the communication towards relevance. Strategic relevance potentially offers the company a good return on investment.