Your Questions Answered: Q&A From Leading Through Communication Webinar
— September 5th, 2023
Andrea Greenhous, President at Vision2Voice Communications, has kindly answered all the questions that came in during her presentation on Leading Through Communication: Why & How Leaders Must Get Comms Right.
Watch the webinar on demand today!
Q. How can I assist a leader in communicating when their style is short and open to negative interpretation?
A. That's a tough one! I suspect if they are a person of few words, they might be an introvert. If that is the case, an interview style is a good choice for a speaking format. If they don't see the value in communicating then demonstrating (through data and stories) that employees want to hear from the leader and what specifically they want to hear, would also be helpful. In both cases, providing the leader with some suggested topics to tackle, you will likely get a bit more from them especially if the topic hits on something they really care about.
Q. What’s the most effective way of collecting employee feedback after a comms campaign?
A. The feedback should of course be tied to your goals. Surveys, polls and pulse checks are always great for measuring results. A good example is the work we are doing right now where we are planning a town hall on the topic of trust. Questions after the event are aimed at measuring things like, do you have a better understanding of what it takes to build more trust in our organization. I am also a fan of focus groups. They can help you understand the stories behind the data.
Q. I'm creating a comms strategy to connect teams within the organization and to help UX research be more valued in the decision making process. Any suggestions on a comms strategy that may be different from what you discussed?
A. By UX, I'm going to assume that you are doing something related to an Intranet or an internal comms platform. If that is the case, we like to do user personas based on focus groups where we ask questions specific to what information and content employees want. To tie it back to the leadership topic, we also ask questions specific to what they want to hear from leaders.
Q. How do you prevent people from living and dying by metrics, like the number of views, clicks and comments that intranet articles get, versus seeing the larger picture?
A. I consider metrics to be clues about behaviour and their interest (or lack thereof) in content. I believe that communications is a means to and end and that your goals shouldn't be the number of people who read your article. It should be how many people read your article and changed their behaviour, gained new knowledge or felt a different way as a result. And for that, you need to collect qualitative data as well through things like focus groups.
Q. To get more buy in on helping leaders in a larger size company understand the role of strategic communications when most are inclined to jump straight to tactics, would you advice doing internal stakeholder meetings between leaders and internal comms to help them see the value we can bring? I think sometimes people just plow forward without thinking through all the things.
A. Don't you hate when that happens! I think a strategy is all about goals and choices. My favourite quote about strategy is from Alice in Wonderland:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
I've done a few things to solve this problem—just develop a strategy anyway and present it (you can do something very quickly and make it highly visual). Then you have something to back up your logic around tactical planning.
Q. How would you suggest engaging introverted employees, when they are hesitant to speak up and get involved?
A. To get employees to ask questions and speak up, you need to build psychological safety which is the concept of being comfortable to come forward with ideas, questions and concerns. I have written a series of blogs on the topic for Poppulo about this topic: Four-Part Blog Series on Psychological Safety for Poppulo. They are here:
Q. Situation: CEO doesn't want to communicate a 3 year plan vision and asks Sr. Comms Manager to cover this during the townhall. What will be the best approach to address this? CEO is definitely an introvert. Will an interview like conversation help?
A. Yes. An interview would help. So would showing your CEO just how hard it is to get people to understand your strategy. There is plenty of research out there with data that demonstrates the disconnect between corporate strategy and employees. Even better is data showing that employees want to hear top line strategy information from the CEO. It is not a mistake to follow that up with more details at the divisional level.
Q. Any tips on how we can engage colleagues to come to townhalls face to face?
A. I'd make it worth coming to—a destination and experience of sorts with time for meaningful interaction with others. I think it's also important not to make your town hall a series of updates that could have been an email. What about a special guest, someone whose life was changed because of your product. We are writing a blog on town halls based on our work with a few clients. Stay tuned for that!
Q. We have a unique set-up: a Co-CEO structure. How do you work with 2 leaders making decisions and leading, and people not seeing that as more power to the CEO level?
A. I am answering both questions at the same time because if you have co-CEOs, then I would definitely create a strategy for the entire leadership team. I don't think it is a bad thing if one CEO plays a larger role in communication but you will also want to demonstrate unity and a common vision.
Q. I feel that some leaders don't fully understand internal communications. How can we best educate our leaders when they are making decisions regarding communications?
A. Isn't this the story of our lives?? I use a lot of research to demonstrate the link between the problems and challenges and communications. Always be prepared with research. For example, I'm a big proponent of storytelling and always talk about the science of storytelling. This includes stories are 22x more memorable than facts because they light up more parts of our brain, that brain processes like mirroring and narrative transportation make stories more persuasive and impactful. As you mentioned, it is an educational process but come armed with research, stats, facts, science and stories both from within and outside of your organization.
Q. A manager is almost oblivious to new staff feeling unhappy. How would you approach this manager?
A. This is really a management question rather than a leadership topic, and should be dealt with by HR not internal comms. HR should be collecting data on employee satisfaction and this data (plus employee retention data) will surface the problem.
Q. Why don't you like the term 'employee engagement'?
A. It is overused. has lost its meaning, and is very employer centric. The Gallup definition is somone who is puts in extra effort which to me says that person is going to work harder for me. Working harder is not always better. I prefer more specific language .
Q. Does Andrea have an email?
A. Yes, you can contact Andrea through the Vision2Voice Communications website, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. I am super curious about too much communication. Examples please! I understand 'not enough' comms but my guess is that it not too much or too often but that the comms aren't strategic, relevant, timely, engaging. Too long perhaps? Poorly written? Examples please?
A. I don't think leaders need to overshare. I also think there are very specific topics leaders should focus on and others are best left to managers.
Q. I think some leaders need hard data to see te importance of internal communication. What data do you have that can help that discussion?
A. The best data comes from an internal comms audit but also from outside sources. Be a researcher and understand business problems so you can talk the CEOs language but demonstrate how their problems can be addressed by improving internal comms. I love Harvard Business Review because it is full of great business research that is almostalways directly relevant to internal comms.
Q. Personalisation of comms: How can this be best achieved?
A. I'm not sure if you mean targetting or more human, but I will pick the more human. I'd say that a good start is to focus on a tone that is warm, friendly and sounds like an actual person rather than a robot. If you explore my blogs, you will see a few posts about creating a more human workplace. If you are talking about more argeted comms, then communication tools like Poppulo can help.
Q. You talked through the arc of change and some major touchpoints with your audience. Are there particular times when those items are more or less appropriate for leadership to share? For example, is it best to recognize failures in the moment or after a period of time has passed?
A. I think making it safe to fail starts early on. Part of the fear of change is a worry about what I call the loss of mastery. I'm great at my job but then they change things and all the sudden, I'm struggling. So you want to make it okay not to be perfect. Brene Brown calls it the F'n first time—you just aren't going to be very good and that's okay.
Q. Usually the Board of Directors doesn't talk to mid level employees for suggestions or ideas. How can we make them communicate with the mid level employees?
A. There are no easy answers to this one. It gets back to my presentation and how I suggested first understanding what is important to your leaders. Then linking that to how you need to harness the power of your employees to achieve results.
Q. We have a very engaged workforce and are currently going through strutural changes, and this ends up with a lot of questions that we dont have the answers to yet. How would you recommend our (introverted) leaders can best lead through this change? What have you found works best to reaasure people when you dont the answers they want yet?
A. One of the things I forgot to mention about introverts is that they are often deep thinkers. I think making sure the leader shared their thinking and perspective about the change while also being honest and open about not having all the answers. In the spirit of generoristy, I'd like to believe that most people would accept that.
Q. How does the comms strategy change when the company goes through a rapid growth phase, no of people, projects and attrition?
A. If your problems or goals change then your strategy changes. that is an oversimplistic answer but think about what issues that rapid growth is going to create. Probably a lot of change and some chaos! So supporting people through the change while creating some consistency is probably a good idea. I would also focus on listening. How are people feeling through all of this and how can leaders address those feelings?
Q. Where do the stats in your presentation come from?
A. A Gallup study, conducted in the spring of 2022, examined employees’ perceptions about DEIB at their workplace. Only 31% of employees say their organization is committed to improving racial justice or equality in their workplace. Compare that to what CHROs think: 84% of CHROs say their organization’s investment in DEIB is increasing.
According to a recent Aflac report, there is a 22 percentage-point gap between employers' perceptions of employee satisfaction with benefits and employees' self-reported satisfaction. That gap widened significantly last year, up from a 14 percentage-point difference in 2021, according to the insurance provider, which surveyed some 1,200 employers and 2,001 employees for its 2022-2023 Aflac WorkForces Report.