Is Your Most Important Audience the First One You Think Of?
The most important audience is always an internal one: the sales team, the product team or the engineering group. It’s any and every internal group that can support or ignore the direction you’re trying to set. It’s high stakes and high reward.
But, more often than not, the internal audience isn’t the first one that many leaders think they should focus on.
The Leader’s Perspective
When I’ve asked leaders who they think their most important audience is, they say:
It’s our customers. And yet, leaders don’t come close to influencing customers the way a sales team does. Leaders can add commitment to a big deal, but they never single-handedly influence the outcome.
It’s our industry. Thought leadership and visibility in an industry can build credibility for a brand. But, it doesn’t influence actions right away. It takes an entire marketing strategy to do that.
It’s our investors. This audience is driven more by performance than feelings and emotions. They can be influenced, but it takes a strong financial story to get their attention.
All important audiences to consider. But, the most important audience is your employees.
Leaders can single-handedly set the tone and emotion that gets an employee group involved and invested in ideas and actions. But, many leaders take their employees for granted when it comes to bringing their best game around messaging, influence and impact.
And, that’s because leaders get more “at bats” with this group. Whether it’s quarterly town halls, new year kick-offs or monthly updates, leaders view this group as the one they can go back to and reset or re-energize to push ahead.
That’s not easily done. Employees read a leader’s energy and conviction as a barometer on whether success is likely or just a pipe dream. So, a leader may say “I need to do better next time” and mentally commit to invest more time, next time. But, the damage is done. Employees leave and talk among themselves about what the lack of conviction really means. They make assumptions about a leader’s focus on a topic and quickly build water cooler talk to fill in the details around their assumptions.
Their interest drops and wanders, and soon leaders can be further behind than they realize. While they may bring more purpose to thoughts next quarter, the groundswell has already disengaged many teams.
You Should Hear What We Hear
We lead workshops to help managers become stronger communicators. And in every program, we ask for examples of compelling communication in their companies based on their experiences. But instead of hearing about compelling leaders, we get descriptions of complacent communication.
“Our leader just gives updates, usually by phone, and you can dial-in or listen later if you want.”
- Do you listen later? Not very often. He’s not that interesting.
“Our leader isn’t a very good communicator. And, she doesn’t like doing it either. She does Q&A sessions instead.”
- Do you ask questions? No, nobody really does except the communications person who interviews her.
They give examples of compelling communicators, but it’s surprising where the examples come from. Workshop participants cite podcasts, videos and eBooks. They watch things online, they listen while they travel and they repeat what they hear.
Shouldn’t one source of compelling communication be a leader within their companies? What would change if your company leader(s) was one of the top five communicators that an employee quoted?
Everything changes. A compelling communicator can change the feel within an organization in a single afternoon because when employees align to communication, they not only buy into initiatives, they support initiatives and spread that support throughout an organization. And, that makes the employee audience the place where compelling communication matters most.
How to Change Your Game
Nothing about becoming a compelling communicator is easy, but everything about it is worth it.
A compelling communicator leaves little to chance. These communicators don’t write speeches on napkins or “wing it.” And, that’s because a compelling communicator knows it takes a plan, a storyline and the right skills to influence.
The plan starts with the employee’s perspective. Too often, leaders set an approach that works best for them. But, communication isn’t about the communicator, it’s always about the listener. And, listeners do better as a full group in a regular cadence so that they feel a part of a larger team and a connected company. Small group formats are run by managers, not leaders.
The storyline must be clear and compelling. Show-stopping good. So strong and interesting that your employees would be willing to repeat it to a friend or share it on LinkedIn. And, it must remain consistent so that a leader can validate it and continue it for a period. It takes work to create clear and compelling communication. But, if it isn’t easy to hear it, then employees won’t repeat it and if they don’t repeat it, it wasn’t worth it.
Personal style must be compelling. Compelling leaders work hard to draw in listeners rather than just pushing out thoughts. It’s the magic of communication and it sets a compelling leader apart from a competent one. It takes work on a set of skills that bring a leader’s brand forward consistently and effectively.
It’s time to get started. Most companies are building budgets and aligning priorities for 2019. Are you thinking about how those things will be communicated? The compelling leaders are. And you should be as well. We help leaders become compelling communicators, and we can help you where it matters most.
Call us when you need us.