Just because people are speaking, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are communicating. Communication with your team becomes even more complicated when you are not communicating in person and it’s tough to read body language. Today as people are working from home, communication with your team is relegated to email, video conferencing, Slack and a slew of other app communication platforms which can be wonderful and yet it’s tough to convey sentiment, tone and energy.
Since most people are not trained communication professionals such as public relations pros, who really teaches us how to communicate? Most leaders are flying solo or relying on their PR teams to generate messaging, especially for their teams. It leaves lots of room for messages to be misunderstood or not applicable or feel unrelatable.
I was on an industry Zoom session recently with a panel discussion and the question was asked about how companies are moving through COVID-19. One panelist started to use language such as “we are living in a cultural ecosystem…” Huh? How about speaking plain English that is relatable and transparent such as, “at first it wasn’t easy, our first priority was for our employees to feel safe and to know we were taking care of them.” People want to experience your humanness first at any time and especially now since COVID-19.
Messaging is the combination of art + science and there are a few simple question that if answered, you can set up your key communication points up for success especially during times of change, which we are all in now. When communicating any change to your team, ask yourself, who is your audience? What is the goal? What actions do you want people to take and WHY? If the message were a banner headline, how would it read (especially with social media, it may wind up being a headline quickly)?.
As a way to begin crafting your communication message to your team, answer the following questions (and do the same process for each audience you want to communicate to):
- What is the change?
- Why change now?
- What evidence supports the decision?
- What would happen if we did nothing?
- What would happen to us if that occurred?
- What is ending and what is not (what is changing and what is not)
- How will this change shift how we function as an organization?
- What have we told our clients/partners/other business leaders?
- When is the change being implemented?
- When will more information be available?
- How will this change be positive and provide continuity and longevity for the team/company/constituents?
Once you’ve answered these questions, begin drafting your key message. You may see that you have several points you want to make or there are a few distinct messages you want to convey to your team. Clarity is critical and you don’t want to overload and overwhelm your people. If you have several messages you want to share, if possible, don’t do it all at once. Look strategically to see when it’s best to share the messages with your team. Consider when you deliver the message, where, why, how often, to whom and in what format. Socialize your message with a couple of trusted advisors in your target audience before sending so you can get solid feedback.
Especially today, your level of sincerity, candor, intention and vulnerability will contribute to how your message “lands.” This is the opportunity for leaders to rise to facilitate conversation for their teams to feel ready and powerful to take on all the opportunities and challenges before them.
Esther Weinberg is the Chief Leadership Development Officer and Founder of The Ready Zone. To dive deeper into the ideas and strategies offered in this article, complete our Needs Assessment and we’ll schedule time to connect.
In the meantime, download our FREE eBook – “Why Your Company’s Bottom Line Is Not Your Top Priority: 6 Eye-Opening Strategies to Put People First.”
(Inspired by William Bridges’ book, “Managing Transitions”)