No one will ever thank you for being verbose, especially in a crisis. My intention here is to invite you to consider how you and the leaders inside your company communicate, while inspiring you to experiment with three new ideas.
Seek Inspiration from Art and Music
Consider creative ways to get your work noticed. If you need to communicate a new approach such as how your employees will continue to work from home, use the humour. For example, using Banksy’s art depiction of working from home with the rats taking over the bathroom could be a different way to approach the conversation. Who are your favorite artists and what insights do they bring into your work?
Play your favorite song at the start of your next leadership meeting. Mine is Optimistic, by Sounds of Blackness, I start virtual keynotes with that song and explain why it is important to me and how leaders need to be realistically optimistic in their communications so that their team is inspired about the future possibilities during difficult times. One executive I work with starts every Monday morning with a link to a new tune and a quote from the lyrics that mean something to her and the message she is wanting to instill in her company. Which lyrics are meaningful to you and how can you share them with your team?
Company meetings do not have to be tedious; many companies are now using musicians to lighten up all day conferences. Swiss security technology company Veeam Software has Keith Urban headlining their customer conference, British rock band The Struts have swapped their global tour for appearing unplugged, live from each of their homes for virtual corporate events. What entertainment could you lineup for your next leadership event or company meeting?
“Are we there yet?” – Paint a picture of the future
You cannot expect your employees or shareholders to be inspired and excited about the future if they do not know where you are going. It is easy in a crisis to focus on the immediate needs, tactics and short-term demands of the profit and loss of your company. However, in parallel you also have to paint a picture of what is ahead, to give hope and inspire those who have continued on the journey with you. You need to create a Satellite Navigation System for your company, you might face roadworks along the way, but continue to update with how you are adjusting and what your intended destination is. Everyone wants to know the new expected time of arrival, otherwise your employees will keep asking “where are we going?” and “when will we get there?”
Provide guidance on the power of the written word
In a crisis everyone analyzes each word that is said or not said. Use this time to provide new ways of how your leaders communicate.
Not everything needs to be a video meeting. Zoom fatigue is real. Back to back meetings are unhealthy and unproductive.15, 30, or 45minute meetings are priceless because it gives you space in your calendar to work, think, and have a break. A technology company magically created an additional 140hours of time per employee over six months using this approach.
My eleven-year-old daughter spontaneously bought by husband a mug for Christmas with the message “I survived another meeting that should have been an email.” She is more observant than either of us realized!
Consider what you can share in writing ahead of a meeting or instead of a meeting. This is where being concise is crucial. State your intention at the start of any communication, (spot my intention at the start of this article). Short stories also are memorable. Use them. The previous story was 36 words.
Amazon is famous for starting every meeting in silence as everyone reads a three-page document to absorb all of the information prior to a discussion or a decision being made. This allows for diversity of learning to be considered rather than those with the loudest voice being able to contribute to a discussion.
Finally, consider how often you ask for, accept, and apply advice? This article has only been useful if you apply an idea from it. I would love to hear what you experimented with and what results you saw. Accountability improves the probability you will make the changes you aspire to, but only if you have the thoughtful ruthlessness to prioritise them.
Val Wright, Innovation and leadership consultant and author of Rapid Growth, Done Right – Kogan Page