Controlling the narrative is important to organizations, even if it’s not publicly acknowledged as being so. Often, we want to get ahead of misinformation or ensure individuals understand what we’re trying to do and why. We want to influence and motivate behavior. We want communication to be meaningful and add value to others.
As we contemplate how to navigate through the continual changes brought about by COVID-19, the only aspect that we can rely upon is that the future will be very different than what we imagined just months ago. But then, the present is also quite different than we thought it would be just a few weeks ago. Reconsidering communication basics can help leaders figure out how best to communicate within the ever-changing times ahead.
Too often we determine messaging from a reactionary standpoint and focus on achieving our short-term objectives at the expense of longer-term goals. When this occurs, opportunities to build trust and realize sustainable progress are compromised.
Leaders who take the following steps, however, can solve this problem.
- Communicate regularly with stakeholders and partners. This enables you to fully understand needs, challenges, and demand. Change continues to impact our employees, customers, and potential customers in numerous ways. Ensure you have the appropriate mechanisms in place to capture information and data so you can ask the right questions at the right time, weigh risks, and make informed decisions.
- If you’re overcommitted, acknowledge it. Business requirements or overly ambitious leaders may tend to pursue too many goals simultaneously. When this occurs, you risk losing confidence and damaging relationships. If you’re overcommitted, put plans in place as quickly as possible to rectify the situation. Then, communicate with stakeholders so they understand the changes and what they should anticipate.
- Discontinue practices that do more harm than good. Making announcements on a Friday afternoon or when key stakeholders are out of the office are prime examples of this classic blunder. Today’s instant access to information empowers, and it also requires updated strategies to ensure meaningful dialogue can occur if warranted. Ensure your communication plans acknowledge the importance of communication channels, timing, and discussion.
Let’s be clear: effective communication is about trust and building trust takes time and effort. Communicating in times of change and uncertainty can be especially challenging. Perfectly executing a communication strategy is rare, and even when it happens, it is fleeting. To position your organization for sustained progress, leaders must understand the nuances of effective communication strategies and invest in doing the work to develop trust.
Tuesday Strong is a coach and consultant at Strong Performance Management LLC. She is the author of Disrupted: Four Strategies for Navigating Major, Unplanned Change. Learn more here.