When it comes to the way executives communicate within their organizations, senior leaders are all over the map. Research shows that only a small fraction of today’s organizations — just 5% — have a dedicated internal communications team.
Of those teams, a paltry 4% report directly to the company leader.
Luckily, if you’re one of the vast majority of executives who needs to up the ante with your internal communications approach, there are a few simple steps you can take to start.
Adopt these three stellar communication habits to set the building blocks for a successful strategy, so you can engage key internal stakeholders at every level of your company:
1. Lose the formality. Not every missive from your office needs to read like a high-level business document. In fact, none should! Formality is a communication killer when it comes to connecting with your employees.
In their attempts to sound “professional,” leaders frequently end up delivering messages that sound formal, stuffy — even pretentious.
Pretentious is the last thing you ever want your internal communications to be. Forget what you’ve been (wrongly) taught about “business writing” and “professional writing,” and your executive communications will improve dramatically. Writing with a friendly, conversational tone is key to engaging your employees.
You’ll have to kick some common writing myths to the curb to get there. For example, forget the following untrue mantras of business writing:
- Myth #1: Contractions are bad
- Myth #2: Prepositions can’t end a sentence
- Myth #3: Conjunctions can’t begin a sentence
- Myth #4: Exclamation points are for shouting
- Myth #5: Avoid using “I” in your writing.
2. Totally embrace feedback. Don’t just pay lip service to feedback; totally embrace it. Far too many executives today say they want honesty, but neglect to routinely ask for people’s honest opinions — and react negatively when they receive criticism.
If you really want to improve your approach to internal communication, constant feedback is a must. Work with your team to build channels of two-way dialogue throughout the ranks of your organization, whether by setting up forums, email suggestion boxes, live town halls, or other popular means of encouraging employee feedback.
In other words, build a culture of honesty — by welcoming feedback on a regular schedule, and giving employees clear and easy ways to share their thoughts.
3. Be strategic about your messaging. The lynchpin of any successful communications plan is consistent, strategic messaging. This means that each piece of communication sent from you must have a strategic purpose. Together, all the communications you send over the course of a year should tell a story with a cohesive message. If even one email were to be left out, the story would be incomplete.
This is a critical concept to keep in mind, as most companies are failing miserably at strategic messaging today. The vast majority of communication from leadership is nonstrategic and therefore perceived by employees as unimportant — even meaningless. A whopping 96% of workers say that unnecessary company emails waste their time.
To avoid this common pitfall, each message you send should give your employees and internal stakeholders something of value: inspiration, motivation, information, praise, engagement, or knowledge. Messages from the C-suite must also impart a sense of reliability, authority, and transparency.
A strong strategy will ensure that your messaging is valuable, reliable, and meaningful. It will also ensure that your communications align directly with key business decisions, events, milestones, projects, and initiatives your employees care about.