The good news is that you’ve got a message, you know what you want to say, you’ve put careful thought and consideration into your words.
Depending on what the message is, perhaps you’ve even run it past a few colleagues to check that it’s not open to misinterpretation, and that you’ve not used words that will alienate your audience. You think you’ve done the hard part, and now you’re now ready to share with your audience. Job done? I’m afraid not.
The thing with communication is that it’s a two-sided affair and you control only one side of it. We communicate for a whole range of reasons; to inform, to drive action, perhaps to inspire change. You want to be sure your message results in the right outcome.
As soon as you have shared your message, you’re then left questioning how was it received and more importantly, has your audience understood what you wanted them to?
Reaching out to colleagues is a great step forward, but you’re quickly going to want to know how effective the message has been. The good news is that there are actions you can take to help with this. By considering and being mindful of a few factors, your message can ‘land’ more effectively:
Who, How and What?
These simple questions can help guide the way forward:
Who - Who are you contacting? An individual, a small team, a global audience? Is the message the same for all of them, or does it need to be tailored? Are they expecting the message and how will they feel upon receiving it? What’s going on for them right now? Should you reference any other matters that might be a concern to them at present? Acknowledging their likely state of mind is an important step as it shows empathy and a level of appreciation to their circumstances.
If you are naturally task orientated, it can be easy (whilst not intentional) to miss the personal side of the conversation. Pause and think of your audience.
One early lesson as a facilitator for large scale change programmes and delivering workshops is to visualise participants leaving their ‘baggage’ outside the training environment to help them be freer in mind to the learning inside the meeting room. This is an important step – your audience needs to be ready to receive the message that you are delivering. Think about how you can do this.
How - How are you making contact? Will it be face to face, intranet blog, email, conference call, video message?
Two important factors to consider are:
(1) How can you be sure that you are reliably reaching everyone who needs to be messaged? It does not feel great to realise that you've been left out – which you will know if this has ever happened to you. In times of crisis management, or for those colleagues in the UK who are on furlough and will already be feeling out of the loop, you need to be confident that the right people are getting the right messages at the right time. Take time to be precise and judge if your technology is fit for purpose and how can it best support you.
- Are there limits on the number of people to join a video/ conference call at any one time - do you need to run multiple sessions?
- Are there time-zone limits for some of the audience – again, do you run multiple sessions to make it as easy as possible to link up?
- Has anyone double checked the audience/ recipient list? Consider colleagues who may have moved roles and been missed. Are group distribution lists accurate and up to date?
- Do you have a way of knowing who joined video or conference calls? Do you use ‘read/receipt’ to verify that vital messages have been viewed?
- What about colleagues on furlough, long term sick, maternity/ paternity leave - should they be included in this particular message?
- Is there a back-up approach that would catch anyone who may inadvertently been missed? A business intranet site for example.
- Will line managers be asked to follow up with their teams to gauge readership levels, responses and/or questions arising?
These points won’t be necessary for every communication and your Communication Plan should consider relevancy.
(2) Is your message delivered via a two-way communication intervention? If not, how will you enable feedback or questions? How does your audience have a voice back to you and have you encouraged this? Whether or not they choose to come back to you will partly depend on the level of trust already established and if they are receptive to you. Unfortunately, this can’t be rushed. Trust takes time and must be earned.
If there are questions from the audience, answer them and be seen to be answering them. This will encourage other colleagues to interact if they can see something constructive happening as a result.
When you find yourself communicating in the midst of a crisis you may be on the back foot in terms of trust if you haven’t previously been in regular contact. That’s no reason not to start – regularly communicating with integrity across a variety of channels is a necessary skill for every leader within the business, at whatever level, and it’s never too late to start.
What – What do you want your audience to do as a result of the message? To be informed, to be prepared, to take action, to get on board with transformational change? Make the purpose clear as quickly as possible.
People are busy and it’s helpful to have the right signal up front to get the right level of engagement with your audience. Highlight actions required to make it super-easy for your recipients to follow. Explain what your audience should do if they have questions and/ or who they can turn to for support. Lead the way. Invite their comments.
Ultimately you can control your side of the communication and you can take actions that influence your audience to receive your message as effectively as possible. This is true of both internal and external communications.
Behaviour breeds Behaviour
Communication goes far beyond the content or copy that’s created. Communication is all about people and is centred on behavioural insight that helps both the sender and recipient to ‘hear’ the same thing, and that thing is often the first step in acknowledgment, which leads to a change in behaviour.
Behavioural change takes time and is hard – it takes repeated and conscious effort. Clear, concise and quality communication is vital to leading the way and helping all types of transformation, be it people, process or technology. Each of us can think of times when our message wasn’t as well received as we’d hoped. It’s even better if we take time to reflect, learn why and improve for the future.
In the spirit of then what? please get in touch to share examples of when communication has worked well - and what has been learned when the message didn't strike the right note.
Good communication helps us all to understand the world around us.