Mind Over Matter
A Little Coaching Can Make Leadership Briefings Better
Executive messaging holds so much potential for an organization. Unfortunately, a lot of that potential falls on disengaged ears.
Let’s talk leadership briefings for a bit.
According to the Corporate Executive Board, leadership briefings are the fourth most popular means to communicate vital information to an organization — trailing behind email, intranet, internal social media and digital signage. But despite the lower ranking and a reputation for being ineffective, this method of staff communication deserves a second look, especially when CLOs team up with the company communications department to drive improvements.
According to the March CEB article, we can charge leadership briefings’ No. 4 status to the fact that senior leader messages only reach about half of their workforce. And employees tend to rate this type of communiqué as below average.
What is it about these meetings that makes them so unlikeable? In a CEB survey of more than 1,000 employees, workers said the content these executives deliver is definitely relevant. What’s missing is the energy, the emotional draw that makes a listener lean forward and tune in. As a matter of fact, the survey found that leadership briefings ranked the lowest among the 12 major channels company internal communications teams use to deploy messages. Executives may be relaying some critical information to their staff, but they just aren’t engaging them. They’re failing to capture people’s attention, evoke emotion or tell stories that can bring those dry business metrics to life.
That’s a pity when one considers the impact these messages can have on an organization. When run well, executive briefings can boost employee performance by helping workers understand strategy and how their work contributes to it. They can give employees access to information, tools and people who can help them do their jobs, and assist them in building peer networks.
There are at least two routes learning leaders can take to help improve the impact of executive messages on staff and ultimately help drive greater engagement, alignment and performance. One, they can coach executives to adopt a more inspirational style, the CEB article states. But let’s face it, some people are stronger in their technical prowess than they are in giving a charismatic presentation. That’s just what it is.
In that case, learning leaders and the consultants they hire should make sure not to rush past storytelling in their leadership development work. For some leaders, the solution may be in changing the content of the message to be delivered. Mind you, the objective of that message — for good or bad — must still be communicated. It’s just that the destination is reached by a different, more vivid path. Instead of talking about strong results or even the outcome from a mistake, leaders should tell the story that got the company to that point. By identifying the emotionally compelling narrative behind the numbers, for instance, leaders are more invested in the topic. That shows, and it’s felt.
Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com.