LeadershipEmployee CommsStrategy

Here’s how Internal Communicators can help adaptable leaders show their true colors


 — April 22nd, 2021

Here’s how Internal Communicators can help adaptable leaders show their true colors

As the business world adjusts to the next stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, one can see the “next normal” beginning to emerge: a workforce that’s a mix of employees who come into the office and those who choose to work from home.

This new dynamic will especially demand leaders to apply soft skills – the most important being adaptability and communicators to convey these skills broadly.

More than ever, leaders and communicators will need to be flexible, because nobody knows exactly what the future holds. What key elements of adaptability will help you and your team’s health and success? Read on.

How to coach your leaders to ace their communications

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, organizations faced a situation that they had never encountered before. In many situations, leaders, aided by internal communicators, rose to the occasion, supporting employees as they faced physical and mental health challenges, family issues and isolation.

This higher awareness for the wellbeing of employees was also accompanied by a breakdown of hierarchies. On Zoom, employees saw their leaders operating from spare bedrooms, kitchen tables and attics, joined by cats, dogs and children. Similarly, the mode of dress chosen by leaders relaxed, just like their teammates.

This decrease in visible hierarchy will likely continue in the “next normal” both because of the COVID experience and the influence of mores from millennials and Silicon Valley. Besides these cosmetic changes, there are some tangible qualities which adaptable leaders should demonstrate as they interact with employees.

However, there is an essential role that internal communicators can play. They help adaptable leaders show their true colors.

First, they need to be on the same wavelength as those communicators to understand their true nature.

Second, they need to craft communications which highlight the best characteristics of adaptable leaders. Third, they need to use a wide range of channels to spread those messages, whether it is communications such as email, speeches, contributions to yammer groups, etc. Internal communicators ideally should convey the following qualities that an adaptable leader possesses:

Bravery. Leaders will need to summon their courage to help their teams cope with a more fluid environment. They’ll need to show their mettle to develop creative solutions to new problems and reassure employees about the positive future for the organization as it weathers uncertain times.

Leaders will also need to show courage in how their company responds to societal issues that are meaningful to employees given the increasing focus on this area.

Finally, leaders are going to need to be brave to honestly convey challenges in the early experimental days of the return.

Transparency. This is true for several reasons. First, the way companies have communicated with their employees, vendors and partners during the pandemic has been more open and less hierarchical than ever before.

This has extended from the CEO down. Second, given the fact that people do not actually know what the future holds, it will be important to win the trust of your team to explain the challenges and opportunities that a specific situation holds. Finally, being transparent requires a leader to show their humanity, such as sharing their true emotions or relevant personal stories.

Approachability. This quality is part of an adaptable leader’s power both because many elements of hierarchy were wiped away during the pandemic and because of the needs of an unsettled workforce. The days of a slick, ersatz, distant leader have faded.

Leaders today must be accessible and on the same wavelength as their team. One leader we work with uses podcasts to more effectively connect with his employees. Leaders like that frequently enlist internal communicators to persuade and lead people. Similar to transparency, an approachable leader needs to reveal their personal vulnerability as a signal to their teammates.

Empathy. An adaptable leader needs to be empathetic. The pandemic has taxed people’s mental and emotional health. Some have lost relatives, friends and co-workers to the virus and are understandably grieving.

Others have shouldered an inordinate amount of work (both professional and personal) and are exhausted. Some employees are apprehensive of what the future holds professionally. An adaptable leader demonstrates that they value the feelings of their teammates and care about helping them to return to normal.

An adaptable leader also recognizes the sacrifices and contributions that their team has made during this challenging situation, to applaud their diligence, determination and commitment.

Given the fact that a recent study, The 2021 Employee Engagement and Retention Report* said that 52% of workers are considering looking for a new job as things return to “normal,” this empathy and appreciation may significantly reduce turnover.  Clearly, this skill may yield more returns than all the others combined. 

As they face the “next normal”, leaders will be buffeted by more challenges. 

If they can rise to the situation through bravery, transparency, approachability and empathy, they will enjoy an adaptability which will help them position their employees to adapt as well.

Internal communicators play an enormous role in conveying those leaders’ qualities to employees, whether formally or informally. Ideally, these communicators can accurately translate the qualities of an adaptable leader to craft authentic communications that have the greatest impact.


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