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Leading communication

Leading communication
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We recently surveyed over 100 senior business leaders from across our global network.

In sharing the analysis and conclusions from this work we hope we can contribute to the wider conversation about where businesses go from here and how their leaders might take them there.

You can find the full survey report. We also asked senior leaders and consultants at Impact to provide their perspective on some of they key trends that emerged from the research. 

Karen Jaques, Impact UK Senior Consultant on leading transparency 

Transparency is being driven by the current situation because change creates vacuums of understanding and stretches leaders’ ability to communicate with their employees effectively. Transparency fosters trust – a vital currency in turbulent times – and the payoffs are well known: your employees will feel more trusted and can act with greater agility, based on a full picture of the facts.   

Take a moment to notice the effect that greater transparency has (even when it’s bad news) on the engagement of the people around you. How much more information could you share with people? Many senior leaders (off the record) admit they break the ‘rules’ and take people into their confidence because they know the benefits outweigh the risks. If you’ve not taken this step, ask yourself what’s really stopping you from being more transparent? Double-check that your assumptions about this are definitely true. 

Leading effective conversations 

One of the most important meta-skills that leaders need to deploy right now is the ability to lead effective conversations. Research demonstrates that organisations can be spectacularly poor at talking intentionally and productively in groups (just think of the last meeting you had and rate it on  effectiveness and use of time).  

In response to the crisis, focusing on dialogue skills might seem like a surprising change in leadership practice, but the unknown nature of the challenge demands not just speed, but also depth and diversity of thought. None of us have all the answers at a time like this, but having the humility to recognise this and convene the right people to have the right conversations is key. How can we maximise the intelligence being applied to the situation? Through dialogue – holding spaces open for collective noticing, sense-making, finding the key questions, rapid-cycle prototyping and learning. 

Jon Hall, Impact UK Senior Consultant on leading action 

Collective commitment and action are usually the results of effective dialogue. In contrast, maintaining a lack of transparency and involvement often only results in variable commitment and action at best, with scepticism and a lack of effective action as common results. Unless leaders can mobilise their organisations to act differently (by doing work differently or doing different work) then little will be achieved. 

Roy White, Impact UK Senior Consultant on leading communications 

Try sharing some of your recent internal communications with your children and ask them what they say. If your children are above the age of seven or eight, you'll likely get pretty good feedback on the clarity of your message and what it's really saying to people. If they don't understand it or if they read an underlying message, then you can be sure that that is how your people will be reading it as well.    

Have a think about how you are reacting to the messages coming out from the government at the moment. It's unlikely that you are accepting anything at face value; you will be making judgements based on how much you trust the person speaking, your previous experience of their statements, and your own biases. This is your own individual interpretation and your people will be doing the same when they read your messages. Therefore, in your communications it is critical that you are clear and that you leave as little room for interpretation as possible. In the current situation, people will trust you more if you are honest and say: 'I don't know what will happen in the future but here's my best guess and I may need to change it next week'. Perversely, that's a lot clearer than communicating a fixed view that doesn't leave room for changing circumstances, because your people don't know whether or not you will adapt. In uncertain times, the key is to be clear about how you are going to approach a situation rather than what you are going to do.