During a crisis, leaders of an organization become the center of attention. All eyes turn to these folks waiting to hear what they will say or do next. Are layoffs coming, will the strategic direction of the company change course or are new policies being introduced? A crisis holds a magnifying glass up to leaders, and their communication and visibility (or lack thereof) can set the tone for the entire company.
A recent Gallup survey on workplace communication found that working environments with open, timely and accurate communication lead to a more engaged workforce with employees showing greater intent to stay with the organization. Today, with employees continuing to work remotely, leaders must elevate their presence and partner with their organization’s communicators to establish visible leadership opportunities to connect with, engage and retain employees.
What is visible leadership?
We talk about visible leadership as a strategy for senior leaders to develop their personal, authentic communications brand, offering visibility to their teams, functions and entire organization. For example, we know that not all leaders shine on screen. Video might not be the most comfortable mechanism for some leaders to communicate a message. Instead of trying teleprompters and scripts and memorizing lines, change the communications channel.
Work with your leaders to find a comfortable communication channel that is reflective of the individual and allows their personality to shine through.
This could take form in blogs, podcasts, newsletters or live Q&A events. Maybe each of your senior leaders has their own channel — variety is great! Whatever the channel might be, the most important factor is to make sure the message remains authentic, and the cadence becomes consistent.
Be involved and present within all layers
In addition to leveraging the most natural channels and tactics for your leader, visible leadership should go beyond communication channels. Another key element to a visible leadership strategy is leadership engagement and participation. How are leaders getting involved and being present within the layers of the organization? Whether volunteering at service events, championing an employee affinity group, serving as a representative on a local board or donating their parking spot for a year to an employee, these are tactics to support leaders putting their words into action. This is the important part of the program in which leaders can begin building relationships and, therefore, trust with employees. Here the “say” and “do” become aligned.
Plan for strategic, ongoing commitments
Consistency is key, especially in large enterprise organizations. It is valuable for leaders to commit to visible leadership in their yearly development plans and objectives to hold themselves accountable and to ensure activities are not just a one-time effort. Communicators play a critical role in ensuring that the various tactics and strategies don’t feel like an isolated event but align with overarching goals and messaging. Developing that “red thread” to connect these personalized efforts will be pivotal to ensure successful and relevant employee communications and to achieve overarching business objectives.
For some leaders, the shift to working remotely might have boosted their productivity, being able to hunker down behind closed doors with fewer interruptions. However, that in-person exposure to the general employee population is hard to replace virtually.
Building trust and managing relationships is at the heart of leadership. A visible, authentic leadership presence can help elevate inspiring leaders and ultimately support a more engaged workforce.
Interested in working with your senior leaders to help build their personal visible leadership communications strategy? Let us know how we can help by dropping us a note at [email protected].