You spend hours as a management team working tirelessly on your organization’s strategic plan. Data points are reviewed, the future is envisioned, and words are carefully chosen to describe where you go from here.
You leave your two-day meeting confident in your strategic plan and energized about your path forward.
But what do you really have? A document summarizing your management meeting.
It might contain your strategic plan, but it’s just another document until it is shared and activated through your employees.
Leadership communication is about taking strategy and putting it into action:
- A vision is only that until someone acts on it
- A strategy is only that until someone acts on it
- A goal is only that until someone acts on it
It’s important to communicate your strategy consistently throughout the organization.
Everything you need to get done is accomplished through people. And to make your strategy stick, you need to communicate it—thoroughly, consistently, and throughout your organization—and help employees know what it means for them.
Here are some common tools to communicate your strategy:
- A Strategy Communications Plan outlining the approach and employee channels your communications team will use to announce the strategy, plus the consistent cadence and timing of information to solidify it in the minds and hearts of employees. (This communications plan would include details and timing of the communication tools you plan to deliver, such as those below.)
- Message Map – the core messaging and consistent language you, leaders throughout the organization, and the communications team will use to talk about the strategy and help employees understand what it means to them. This would include a summary or “elevator speech” as well as key headlines and supporting examples about the “what, why, when and how” of the strategy.
- A visual executive summary or infographic depicting the key aspects of the strategy in a compelling way so people quickly “get” what you’re talking about and understand what they need to do.
- A master presentation (sometimes called a ‘walk-around deck’) that you and your fellow leaders can use to share the key elements and describe the strategy consistently at all levels of the organization.
- A virtual “round table” for all employees, in which you discuss the strategy, what it means for your area(s) of the business and what you expect of employees.
- Functional/Local All-hands or Town Hall meetings following up on the all-company presentation where you and other senior leaders share your own insights with your teams and help connect their work to the larger strategy.
- Ongoing e-newsletter or magazine dedicated to the strategy focused on the vision for the future and examples of how the strategy is being activated across the enterprise.
- Blogs or posts in Teams, Slack or in other internal social media to reinforce key behaviors and update employees regularly about the progress being made in executing the strategy.
- An intranet page offering access to resources like those above.
Leaders Who Create Excitement About the Future Drive Greater Employee Engagement
Research shows that the way you behave and communicate as a leader is directly tied to the engagement of your team, which in turn can create powerful connections with the strategy. The Gallup Organization, which has studied engagement for decades, consistently finds that “engaged employees produce better business outcomes across industry, company size and nationality, in good economic times and bad.” The 2019 Trends in Global Employee Engagement survey by HR consultancy Kincentric, affirms that leaders who demonstrate engaging behaviors influence their teams’ engagement. Of more than five million employee respondents from 86 countries, 66% said leaders’ ability to create excitement for the future of the organization was a top driver of engagement.
Communication is a way to create that excitement and engagement within your team, paving the way for stronger connection to strategy. Leaders who are committed to helping their teams understand the strategy play a critical role in bringing it to life throughout the organization.
Here are some other tools you can use to help employees have a line of sight to the big picture and how their work can help achieve strategy:
- Leader Communications Toolkit – a combination of content and “how to communicate” guidance on what you need to know, do and share about the strategy to bring it to life with employees. This includes a few of the tools above, including messaging, infographics and presentations with talking points to help deliver consistent information.
- Leader webinar on communicating to advance strategy – with emphasis on the importance of communication and key leader behaviors to help drive strategy, the webinar would demonstrate how to use the toolkit. It would also offer guidance for handling tough Q&As and communicating consistently with the team.
However compelling the data or inspiring the vision captured in your strategic plan, it’s only a document until it’s communicated and activated with employees. Having purposeful and consistent communication delivered from both Internal Communications and leaders will make the difference in bringing your strategy to life.
Which of these communication tools and approaches do you think will work best in your organization for communicating your strategic plan?—David Grossman