Leadership communications in difficult times Susan Stewart
00 Current state
01 Understand the ‘who’
02 Explain the ‘why’
03 Communicate the ‘what’
04 Involve the ‘who’
05 Maximize the impact of leaders, social networks & peer pressure
06 Celebrate short term wins
07 Sustain the action
08 The best laid plans
09 In closing
All nine practices that constitute Watson Wyatt's Hierarchy of Effective Communication continue to have a positive correlation to financial performance.*
The percentage of companies that are measuring employee behavioural change has increased almost 25% points since the 2003/2004 study.*
*2007/2008 Communication ROI Study Secrets of Top Performers: How Companies With Highly Effective Employee Communication Differentiate Themselves. Watson Wyatt Worldwide 00
Effective employee communication is a leading indicator of financial performance
Companies with the most effective employee communication programs provided a 91% total return to shareholders (TRS) from 2002 to 2006, compared with 62% for firms that communicated least effectively. Moreover, a significant improvement in communication effectiveness is associated with a 15.7% increase in market value.*
Firms that communicate effectively are four times as likely to report high levels of employee engagement as firms that communicate less effectively.*
Why? “ Increasing employee engagement during an economic downturn is akin to tuning up your car so it runs on eight cylinders instead of six. The car performs much more effectively and efficiently with the additional power. Understood correctly, engagement can improve performance, quality and productivity.” Shaffer J (2009). Playing to win . Communication World. March 2009. IABC publication 00
Managing difficult times “ Companies are on the whole sticking to the tactics they identified last fall as helping them manage the global economic turmoil. A higher proportion of companies are now taking longer-term actions such as restructuring, hiring talent, or leaving markets altogether, perhaps indicating that more see the turmoil as creating long-term structural changes.” McKinsey (2009). Economic conditions snapshot. McKinsey Global Survey Results. 20 February 2009. 00
The challenge Watkins M (2009). Picking the right transition strategy. Harvard Business Review. January 2009. pp. 47-53 00 Turnaround Realignment Saving a business or initiative widely acknowledged to be in serious trouble Reenergising a previously successful organisation that now faces problems Challenges Reengineering demoralised employees and other stakeholders Making effective decisions under time pressure Going deep enough with painful cuts and difficult personnel choices Convincing employees that change is necessary Carefully restructuring the top team and refocusing the vision Opportunities Everyone recognises that change is necessary Affected constituencies offer significant external support A little success goes a long way The organisation has significant pockets of strength People want to continue to see themselves as successful
ACTION 01: Understand the ‘who’ 01
Eccelston R (2009). Day the gentleman’s game went to hell . The Advertiser. Wednesday 8 March 2009. pp.7 01
ACTION 02: Explain the ‘why’ 02 Innately we all want to know why … “Why should I”? Where are you leading me? Why are you leading me there? Why should I follow you? Why now? … and by the way, how do I get there? p.s. who else is coming?
ACTION 03: Communicate the ‘what’ 03 communications outcome A B 1-way inform or publicise A B 2-way asymmetrical persuade A B 2-way symmetrical mutual agreement
03 effort to change critical to success Keep informed Woo and win Monitor and respond Maintain confidence 2-way asymmetrical 2-way symmetrical 1-way 1-way & 2-way asymmetrical Stakeholder communications
ACTION 04: Involve the ‘who’ 04 The IKEA effect
ACTION 05: Maximise the impact of leaders, social groups & peer pressure 05
ACTION 06: Celebrate short term wins 06
ACTION 07: Sustain the change 07
ACTION 08: The best laid plans 08
In closing 09
Communicate what stays the same. People look for stability - don’t forget to communicate what is staying the same to help reduce anxiety.
Engage with resistance - don’t seek to overcome. Resistance is normal, highly complex, and only feedback. Understand staff concerns and work with them to find solutions and build trust.
Build change capability within. Organisation need to be adaptive. Think about and work towards fostering behaviours that that enable change.
Dignity is paramount. Your role as leader is to ensure that your people and clients are respected.
Ensure a united front . Work with managers to keep them informed and up to date. Be first to communicate and don’t let employees hear messages from elsewhere
Engage with the water cooler talk . Engaging with the rumours allows clarification of incorrect information and guided sense-making. You’ll also get some useful feedback.
Support survivors. Those left after downsizing need support otherwise you will be faced with high stressed organisation, increased sick leave, increased intent to leave and reduced performance.