Consistency: Preserve the power of your message
Another aspect of clear leadership communication is the cadence and form of the message.
As Andrew points out in this clip, it’s wise not to dilute your message or create confusion by constantly changing the way you deliver it . . .
Andrew also told a story about an executive at Facebook who for years sent out a Monday-morning message to all employees, giving news about the business and other insights.
One week he had to deal with a family emergency and didn’t have time for his Monday message. That innocent, one-time break in the consistency of his communiqués was noticed—big time. Employees’ reactions were more or less, “What happened? Is something wrong?”
So, consistency matters, whether we need to deliver a series of communications over six months regarding an organizational change, or start a weekly video message.
Empathy: We’re all in this together
“These days people will not engage their full selves—mind, body, and spirit—until they believe their leader cares about them. They seek a personal connection with their leader before they will invest themselves wholly in their jobs. That requires leaders to provide a level of access, openness, and depth that once was taboo.”
It’s easy to get lost in task mode focusing on products, targets, and results. Yet what matters as much today are the people behind all of those designs, sales presentations, and quarterly numbers.
As leaders, we need to stay connected to our humanity.
I can think of no better example of the importance of empathy and empathetic communication than when actions need to be taken that adversely affect some within the organization.
Layoffs are once again in the news, and with them, some wildly different examples of how companies handled them.
Consider Elon Musk at Twitter. Some people were summarily told to pack up and leave. The rest were given a hardcore ultimatum to either commit to working ‘round the clock or leave. No compassion, no regret, no support.
Contrast that approach with the open and caring communications delivered to employees by CEOs at Airbnb, Meta, and Stripe. These leaders admitted mistakes, expressed a genuine regret for the job losses, and provided information and support to help laid-off employees get through the crisis. They even thought to outline support available for employees who would keep their jobs, knowing that layoffs hurt everyone.
Empathy is good for business, and good for humanity.
Social Advocacy: When it’s the right thing to do
Probably one of the most radical changes taking place among employees these days is the expectation that their companies take a stand on social issues.
These Gartner research findings, cited in a 2021 Forbes article, are pretty stunning . . .
“ … three-quarters of employees expect their employer to take a stance on current societal or cultural issues, even if those issues have nothing to do with their employer … Demands have only become more urgent during recent protests demanding social equity and justice.”
“68% of employees would consider quitting their current job and working with an organization with a stronger viewpoint on the social issues that matter most to them.”
Back to that leadership communication PowerSpeaking Live!, Andrew offered some valuable advice to leaders who are considering if, how, and when it makes sense to take a public stand . . .
I especially appreciate the point Andrew made about selecting issues for which there exists a genuine connection. Whether that connection is the nature of the business, its vision, or the leader’s experience, it’s an authentic, credible tie to the issue that will make speaking out ring true.
When the pandemic hit and the world was turned upside down, I had been with PowerSpeaking for two years.
As its CEO, I was grateful for the culture the company’s founders and leadership team had created over the decades—one of honesty, authenticity, and empathy. That foundation, and my commitment to it, set us all up for success in rising to meet a terrifying, uncertain time.
In the end, we not only survived the crisis, we thrived—and continue to.
The best leaders build trust, empower people to do their best, and inspire them to work together toward a common vision. From where I sit, I know the best way to rise to that gold standard is to be real, be willing to show your vulnerability, and commit to transparent, timely, empathetic communication.
Our employees, stakeholders, and communities now expect no less of us—and that’s a good thing.