As internal communicators, we are very familiar with the formula: 1. Come up with a creative new comms idea. 2. Get excited about said new idea. 3. Despair that the idea will never be as good as you had imagined, because senior management won’t get on board.
It is a tricky process to get senior leaders engaged in a way that will mean your ideas come to life across the company, because often they are too busy or simply not interested in your communications goals or strategy. It is imperative to get early buy in, so that management can lead by example, and dissipate information and enthusiasm throughout the company. By planning a mini-strategy around coaching and engaging leaders early on, you will have a much better chance of getting good engagement company-wide.
Some ideas for effective ways of coaching leaders include:
- Being a trusted advisor, working closely with the CEO and Leadership team and ways of helping them understand the importance of your campaign
- Create a diary of the leader’s week that is relevant to the team
- Find a coach of similar background to help the leader, one they’ll enjoy working with and feel comfortable with
- Conversely – take them out of their comfort zone in an attempt to completely change their behaviour
- Find what works for them: some leaders might like to go around the business, speaking with colleagues and filming these discussions to share with the rest of the teams
- Give them responsibility. Set up a CEO blog and help prepare them to respond authentically and appropriately to questions. This puts them in the frontline, so they can really be involved in the thoughts and feelings of their employees
- Give leaders a choice as to their preferred communication methods
- Be honest with your feedback – what needs improvement, what did they do well?
In focusing on a management engagement strategy alongside your wider communications strategy, you are fire-proofing the latter. It’s the best way of anticipating any management road blocks and ensuring that everyone gets the most out of your communications plan, whether that be encouraging transparency and openness, reassurance about company changes, or instilling company values within individuals and teams.