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How to ace corporate communication from the top down


How do you keep your team happy, increase profits, and streamline production? One simple skill can help you run a thriving business. Not having it will bring down morale and create an atmosphere of fear, plummeting both productivity and innovative thinking.

If your business has a top-down, hierarchical structure where the vision is passed down from the C-Suite to the middle managers and then disseminated to the rest of your employees, acing communication makes an incredible difference.

It’s the difference between Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, firing the bottom 10% of the team— an approach that, you could argue, led to the culture that created GE’s current troubles– and Costco’s culture which made them one of the best employers in the US.

So how can you ace corporate communication from the top down? Let’s take a look at a few simple things you can do straight away that can make a big difference.

1. Open the lines of communication

Decision makers tend to do about 80% of the talking. However, everyone else only talks about 20% of the time. This leaves a lot of useful knowledge and information left unshared. Tapping into this can be a powerful competitive advantage.

Create opportunities for your team to feel heard and to have the chance to communicate. While you are in charge of making the final decisions, a good leader knows that it’s essential to encourage communication. When your team feel heard, they’ll be more productive.

You can run anonymous surveys so that your employees can share honest feedback. You can also make it easier to understand the decisions, and the effect they’ll have on different departments by sharing some of the data and reasons behind it. Just showing your team the specific reasons and logic behind a decision can make a big difference.

Experiment with video open hours

Open hours aren’t just for college professors and course creators. You can run regular, set open hours for key C-Suite members so that your employees know when they can reach you directly. Use this to answer questions, share information, and build relationships.

The way you run this will depend on you. Experiment with running open hours over video, Slack or something different. Virtual open hours make it easier for both C-Suite execs and team members because they are location ambivalent.

2. Share what you are doing

In his book Mastering Fear, Brandon Webb– the founder of Hurricane Group– relays the story of two leaders. One leader hardly ever said anything to the team. As a result, they were disheartened, the work was sub-par and the environment was poisonous.

The other leader updated the team on a daily basis, telling them exactly what was going on, what was going to happen next, and how their efforts contributed. What do you think that team was like? The difference was night and day.

Don’t leave your team in the dark. Find a way to communicate with them that works for you. You can jump on a quick video call, record a 5 minute podcast, send a newsletter– experiment and see what works best for your company.

The key is to keep the team up to date with big developments so that they feel like an essential part of the company.

Create a shared news board

If you use an internal intranet, add a section with the latest updates from the C-Suite. You can experiment with adding discussion forums or running anonymous surveys.

3. Find effective translators

A lot of the C-Suite decisions are very broad. They are big ideas that affect the company on a directional level. But those messages don’t always translate well to employees because they don’t relate to your team’s day to day.

That’s why you need a great translator. They take the top-down mission and show your employees how it affects them. This turns the wider mission into something actionable– something that can be tracked, measured, and achieved. Something your team can excel at.

The translator’s message should match the projects and products each department is working on and align with existing team goals. Otherwise it leads to a cognitive mismatch and decreased satisfaction.

4. Embrace everyone’s role (and make them feel important)

Everyone plays a role in the company’s success. If they don’t, why would you hire them?

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink digs into the psychology of human motivation, exploring theories by Edward Deci and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The studies suggest that smart people want to find meaning in their work. Part of your job as a leader is to create an environment where your employees feel valuable.

Keep personalized files with the things that matter

Relationships matter. Your relationship with your team is just as important as your relationship with your customers. Because it’s your team that help customers fall in love with what you do and choose you over the competition.

Keeping a file on each employee can really help. But this file is filled with more than just the facts. It includes information about each person’s skills, experience, aspirations, and desire for growth. This way when it’s time for a performance review or just a sit down with a team member, you can make them feel special by talking about the things that matter to them.

5. Encourage frank discussion

Conflict in the workplace can quickly turn nasty so it’s little wonder most of us avoid it. However, healthy discussion and disagreement about the most efficient way to do things can help you discover innovative solutions.

So foster an atmosphere of frank discussion. You can coach the team on how to best converse or just encourage those who know a lot but usually hold back by creating a safe, healthy environment where arguments are fought to improve the process for everyone instead of stoking individual egos.

Make everyone feel like a part of a team

The key to acing corporate communication is making everyone feel like they are a part of the team.

Translating your vision to your team in a way that fits with their day to day while still offering leadership will create a culture that helps you increase sales, improve productivity and keep your employees happy.

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