We know that it is important to get leaders involved in communication, but it can be a challenge for some. Either leaders are apprehensive to share bits of themselves, are timid in front of a camera or simply do not make the time. It’s a struggle. Because when communicators find those leaders who are engaged, enthusiastic and energetic – and help them properly position their leadership voice – it can be comms magic.🔮
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Amy Jen Su (@amyjensu) shares her own advice about helping people find not just one leadership voice inside themselves but many. But in reading it, her thoughts provide a great context to how communicators can engage leaders to discover and share their true leadership voice.
She writes about five distinct voices that employees can have, but it could be any one of these that helps a communicator break through the hardened exterior of their leading members.
1. Voice of Character
“Anchoring ourselves in the character we know we have keeps us from becoming chameleons, acting out of a fight-or-flight reaction, or only showing respect when there is a commercial gain or benefit.”
I can’t wait for the next Edelman Trust Barometer to get released to see if CEO trust is still at the bottom. And if CEO trust is down, it’s not hard to conclude that trust among other company leaders would be too. But at your company, there are leaders people respond to and respect. Showcase their voice of the character. They “talk the talk and walk the walk.” Use their voice as a beacon for others.
2. Voice of Context
“Too often, in the race against time, we dive right into the details of a presentation, meeting, or conversation, without taking an extra few minutes to appropriately set the stage and share critical context.”
When I present at events, I often share that communicators don’t have a content problem; they have a context problem. This isn’t undermining the importance of quality content, but more about providing the relevant context for your audience – employees. Leaders understand the big picture and can share this with employees, especially with any change communication. It’s so important to set the stage and expectations of what’s truly going to happen.
3. Voice of Clarity
“In a world of high-intensity workplaces, you have the opportunity to be the voice of clarity and help your team stay focused on the most important priorities.”
In the immortal words of Duran Duran, “It’s too much information for me.” The amount of information our brains process every day is practically incalculable. The sources are ever increasing. A strong voice of clarity can cut through the noise and present information in a clear, concise and purposeful way. Clarity limits the need for translation and additional explanation, and also keeps it simple and focused on employees.
4. Voice of Curiosity
“As a leader, you have a responsibility to give direction, share information, and make important decisions. But you need to be sure that you’re not approaching every situation as if you have all the answers or as if you need to advise on, problem-solve, or fix everything in front of you.”
For many leaders, admitting they don’t know all of the answers can be quite difficult and threatening. But for those who are willing to take feedback and positively accept challenges, it shows they are human. Delivering a voice of curiosity can encourage others to get involved, share ideas and make a difference. The alternative: employees sit back and get used to being talked at. That’s not true leadership.
5. Voice of Connection
“It can become increasingly more difficult to make a connection with a broadening set of colleagues, strategic networks, and teams.”
Developing a voice of connection for communicators should be right in their wheelhouse. But it’s often a bigger challenge for leaders. Being a voice of connection means more than just relating to people. It also means being a great storyteller. Stories make important messages more memorable and salient. And as we work more virtually thanks to technology, let’s not forget the importance of making a real connection with people. This takes time, which is not something everyone has an abundance of, but it’s critical to make time to make those connections with your workforce.
So for communicators who are struggling to get leaders more involved in communications, I suggest recommending one of these “voices” to them. It’s a safe and focused effort to improve the quality and quantity of leadership communication at your companies. And perhaps through these exercises, you’ll find your own voices to strengthen.