So you’ve done what every successful business needs to do and developed a great strategic plan. Now it’s time to make that plan happen. Where do you start? With great internal communication directly from you, the leader. Everyone in your organization needs to understand your strategic plan and his/her role in making it a reality. And the person they most want to hear this information from is you, the leader.
Two of my clients, David Frances of EAP Systems, in Woburn, MA, and Mitch Bornstein of Wellesley Consulting, in Wellesley, MA, are experts in helping leaders improve their leadership communication skills. According to Dave and Mitch, two key benefits of having consistent communication about strategic direction come directly from the leader to all organizational levels are:
• Your goals and strategies are embraced. People highly value hearing what you are thinking, without getting the message through several layers of intermediaries, off a sheet of paper, or from a computer screen.
• People give their best to a leader who takes the time to communicate directly with them. You don’t need charisma. Just being there, in front of people, speaking openly and honestly, with enthusiasm, about the direction you want to take the company with their help has a huge and immediate positive impact. Interacting with people directly tells them you care enough about them to make the effort.
Mitch and Dave also point out that with face-to-face communication that provides for a two-way exchange of ideas and information, you learn a lot that will help you strengthen your chances of making your strategic plan succeed. For instance, you will:
• Find out what is going on inside your organization. If you’re frequently surprised by the lack of progress toward key goals, you probably don’t have your finger on the pulse of your organization. The best and simplest way to learn what’s really happening out there—and why–is to just go out there and talk to people. You can do all the employee surveys you want and spend hours trying to interpret exactly what the answers mean. Or you can regularly devote an hour here and there to talking with people. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll learn about why things are working (or not working).
• Understand more about what’s going on outside your organization that’s impacting your business. As Intel CEO Andy Grove explained in Only the Paranoid Survive, senior managers are often the last to sense what he calls Strategic Inflection Points. These are unexpected and rapid business shifts that can dramatically change a company’s operating climate. As he puts it, “People in the trenches are usually in touch with impending changes early. Salespeople understand shifting customer demands before management does; financial analysts are the earliest to know when the fundamentals of a business change.” The more time you spend talking to people who work on the periphery of the business—those who are actually dealing with customers, vendors, and even competitors—the more you’ll know about the outside influences that are poised to cause you problems.
• Build a cohesive team. Who do you think has a better chance of turning their entire organizations into unified, motivated teams: Leaders who rarely interact with anyone but the people who report directly to them or leaders who frequently go throughout the organization, engaging informally with others, communicating the goals and strategies, and asking for feedback and new ideas?
If you want people to feel part of your team and to be committed to your strategic direction, you need to show them that you too are part of that team and that you are passionate about where you want to take the company. The most effective way to do this is with frequent face-to-face communication.
(Contact information on article sources: David Frances, EAP Systems, firstname.lastname@example.org; Mitch Bornstein, Wellesley Consulting, email@example.com)