Doing a group communication is one of the most agonised over events in organisational life. The number of meetings about meetings, reviews and circulations of scripts and announcements can be staggering and often result in something that’s so bland and watered down that the message is lost, confusing or ineffective.
What’s more, people are demanding more authentic communication from their leaders. Fed up with spin, hype and the positive reframing that’s now endemic in politics and a lot of social messaging, we are getting much better at spotting and rejecting this style of communication (and hooray to that we say).
So how can you prepare a message or announcement that is both authentic and can be received by a group of people with different filters, motives and communication style preferences?
1. Step into the shoes of the people in your organisation
This is easier said than done. Consider what your people are interested in, concerned about, care about, what they might be afraid of losing? Remember, change might be exciting for you but might not be for them. What appears to be a negative message to you might not really bother them too much.
To get this right you need to go beyond the generalisations often cited in pop psychology and really understand your people. This will help you to more accurately predict how your message will be received and therefore what to include to allay concerns and motivate people appropriately.
2. Select your review panel carefully
Often we think that by consulting more widely you get more views and that’s better - but not necessarily. Having too many people feedback on a message can dilute it to the point of no impact. Instead you probably only need 4-6 people but they need to be very different in how they view things and style. This way you can get feedback from multiple perspectives without having to think about it all yourself.
Choose people from different parts of the organisation, some people who are very enthusiastic about the subject, some that are a bit cynical, some who like options and some who like to understand the process. Be clear with what you would like them to comment on, instead of just asking for feedback vaguely, also be clear as to what you would like feedback on - this could be different for each person. Then consider all the feedback as a whole and decide what to integrate and what to leave out.
3. Deliver your message in a variety of ways
People absorb and process information differently so consider the ways that are appropriate for you to communicate your message. Some successful CEOs have used a combination of the following:
- A video message
- Town Hall type announcement with Q&A
- Online message forums where people can ask questions and/ or leave feedback
- Open surgeries where the senior team are available to discuss or take questions
People may not use all of these channels and sometimes organisations stop producing them because of this but don’t; they ooze transparency and that lends authenticity to your message. It says you have the courage to stand behind your message and are open to discussions and feedback.
For complex or high impact announcements consider a staggered announcement or trialing. Sometimes it can be too much for people to absorb in one go. If you do this start with a big picture announcement and then move into specifics and consequences and be clear when the next stage of communication is coming.
You can over review a message to the point of blandness and the impact you wanted to make gets completely lost. But go the other way and over-hype it, you’ll annoy those increasingly wise to spin and seeking far more authenticity. So, getting messaging right requires more intuitive communication – there is no one size fits all approach.
Don’t forget to consider how your particular audience might receive your message best. Any approach that demonstrates greater transparency and less ‘corporate spin’ stands a far better chance of getting through.
For further information
Authentic communication comes through leaders and potential leaders who have the confidence to be themselves. We cover leadership communication in our Leadership Development programme, in fact, we think it’s probably the most important leadership skill of all.
Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash
Founder of Monkey Puzzle and an INLPTA NLP Master Trainer, Karen is also a UKCP registered Psychotherapist and author of the award winning book Real Leaders for the Real World. Her new book Time Mastery; Banish Time Management Forever is out now.
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