CEO Communication Can Make or Break a Company in Turbulent Times
What’s one commonality among the world’s greatest leaders? They are master communicators, and especially in times of crisis. Regardless of whether discussing current events, business, politics, sports (or the lack there of!), or even personal life, the best leaders know how to communicate effectively. Their values are clear and solid, and what they say promotes those values. Their teams admire them and follow their lead. To move your company toward recovery, all leaders must learn to master the art of communication.
Now (more than ever) CEOs need to be visible within the organization, and high-quality communication is the catalyst. So how do you communicate with ultimate impact? Realize and accept that clear communication is always a two-way process. It’s not enough to speak clearly; you have to make sure you’re being heard and understood. To facilitate this, use the following two-way communication primer:
Prepare how you’ll communicate — Planning ahead leads to better results. Scrutinize the topic, issue or problem at hand, answering those critical who, what, where, when and why questions on your own. Trying to address those prior to the actual communication experience will help empower you with information and give you more confidence when delivering. Clarify the goal of the message and try to anticipate the receiver’s viewpoints and feelings.
Deliver the message — Remember, it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. So first, choose the right medium for communicating the message — that’s part of the “how.” If it’s serious enough to warrant a face-to-face conversation (if that’s possible), don’t hide behind an email to try and get the job done. Once you’ve picked the right message mode, then say/write what you think or feel with conviction, particularly if it’s truly important. Consider the balance between what’s verbal and nonverbal, keeping in mind tone, inflection, word choice, eye contact, gestures, posture, wordiness, grammar, etc. Always relate the message to your larger goals and identify the action that’s to be taken.
Receive the message — Have recipients tell you what they’re understanding so you are SURE they’ve got it. Then, keep an open mind about what you might learn (it might not be what you thought or hoped you communicated!). Ask them to relay back the key points; then confirm for them that YOU understand that they understand you.
Also build in feedback loops to get input on how the communication went, so you can learn from or improve upon it in the future. If you’re not comfortable asking the direct recipient(s) for feedback, petition a trusted advisor or objective confidant for his/her thoughts. Pay attention to how people are acting after you’ve communicated your message — this alone can quickly tip you off to how well the message was delivered, understood or accepted. If people say they are Ok with something and then act upset, back to the drawing board you go!
Finally, be ready to make adjustments. Good leaders embrace the opportunity to change based on what is and isn’t working. When it comes to communication, a willingness to adapt and improve is a powerful, vital leadership trait.