This is the first in a series on The Language of Leaders.
I’ll never forget my first year with IBM when, after reinforcing the importance of work-life balance, a VP stood up in front of the entire Canadian organization and related how she often worked long hours, including “during her daughter’s birthday party.” Oh dear.
Every leader wants to inspire their people and most are able to send the completely wrong message with 100% sincerity. Despite broad statements about the importance of our employees, we continually hear about abuses and absurd management behavior. Some wizard at PermaCorp posted this great message meant to build loyalty. Fail!
While YOU would never make a mistake like that, it’s still easy to send the wrong messages. Planning an inspiring, directional communication is not difficult, but there are a million ways to compromise your delivery. Mixed messages are particularly dangerous because they make it clear you can’t be trusted. Here is what to focus on.
In 2017, YouTube limited non-skippable ads to 15 seconds. Very little time to make an impression. Content marketers know that every message needs a clear call to action. What do you want people to do? Your words must align with that purpose. In a future article we will look deeper into the critical nature of audience resonance during message planning.
PowerPoint or witty video? Story or facts? Sports metaphors don’t appeal to everyone. Colloquialisms don’t translate across cultures and languages. Channel, timing, inflection, and body language must all align seamlessly with your theme.
Now show me! Your next steps will be scrutinized, so ensure you are ready to match words for action. At GE, Flannery has grounded the corporate jets and stripped away executive perks. Starting at the top signals real change.
Not only what you do, but who and what you do it with matters. As a result of your message, where will you invest time and money? Which projects get budget? Who gets fired? Last June, Uber fired 20 people based on workplace behavior that did not match the desired culture.
The biggest test of your commitment to the message is how you respond to a crisis and failures. In November Uber discovered that a hack of their network compromised 57 million customer records. The security chief was fired for the cover-up. Strong signal.
Changing Your Mind
Before your next team or company communication, consider:
- Who will be watching for you to fail and how might they challenge you?
- What upcoming events will put your words to the test?
Work through each of the five areas to ensure you are ready to convert words into commitment.
Jeff works with growing businesses and aspiring non-profits to help them establish and execute leading strategies. He also works with executives who want to accelerate their growth. Learn more about Jeff here.