A Leaders Role…
It’s crucial that leaders are constantly thinking about how to reengage and refocus their employees. The first task is to refocus people, remind them where the organisation is headed, recap on strategic messages and review successes so far. This can take place at several levels – the CEO in some organisations sends out a video message and/or stages a series of town hall meetings to reiterate priorities and give an overview of the challenges and aims for the coming year. This can often be supported by a reminder of the big successes of the previous year – those crucial reasons to believe which help people see that progress is being made. This helps establish a sense of momentum and continuity and provides a useful context for local discussions.
These local conversations are crucial. Most leaders make a team meeting a priority in the first week back so they can rekindle the team’s spirit, highlight what its members need to do to play their part and restate objectives. Such a session helps everyone get up to speed quickly. More informally, an early team session serves as a great opportunity to spot issues and concerns and give people an opportunity to be listened. Sometimes, just having the conversation can be enough to reassure people – often when people have doubts or questions, being heard can go a long way to help people deal with them.
Many leaders also need to start having more quick half hour informal discussions with no rigid agenda. These can also help highlight issues and remind people that they are valued and an important part of the team. For some with big teams, it’s a heavy investment of time, but one that many find invaluable. Our experience is that one to ones can be the jewel in a leader’s communication crown, but because they are so resource hungry, they must be used sparingly. The first week or two of each month is a good time to invest the time necessary and can pay real dividends in terms of team relationships and commitment throughout the year.
Informal communication – casual conversations in corridors, around the coffee or water machines and at meals – is also a vital communication tool in the leader’s kitbag at any time of the year, but especially at the start. Being visible, available and interested helps build trust between leaders and their teams and enables them to keep a finger on the pulse of the organisation. They can also help highlight issues and give people a chance to ask questions and raise issues. It can be hard to get informal communication right for some leaders as it can feel slightly forced and unnatural to start a conversation. Those that get it right ask questions about what people are making of what is going on, what issues they are facing and how they feel about the role. The balance is much more on asking questions and listening than attempting to push messages at people. If leaders start to collar people to recite a lot of key messages, it won’t be long before their teams work out ways of avoiding them.