We’ve been digesting the freshly published IC Index, and while the relationship between visible leaders communicating on business strategy, and positive employee engagement is rightly a golden thread throughout – what did raise an eyebrow were some findings that lie beneath…
The Index tells us 4 in 5 senior leaders believe their strategy is the right one for their business, but, 1 in 3 feel they don’t completely understand it.
So, belief and understanding don’t quite tally. But, that doesn’t mean that same figure of 4 in 5 don’t feel like they’re equipped to lead a conversation with their team.
So is it fair to ask: How closely are those conversations hitting the mark?
For communicators as trusted advisors, the Index is full of rich insight to support us, and a nudge for how we help the senior leaders we counsel stay in tune with their people for more resonant conversations – keeping them honest about what their employees are really interested in.
Revisiting those initial numbers, it’s easy to assume that senior leaders ‘get’ their strategy, and the things employees are most interested in (development, reward, sustainability) by default, as you’d like to think they’ve been collectively involved in defining them. But, when we consider senior leaders as a channel, as well as an audience – validating that understanding is key for the strength of the onward message.
Assimilating information is one thing, rearticulating is another – influenced by factors like true level of understanding, and assuredness. Most of us I’m sure, know how it feels to have a knowledge gap on something you feel you’re expected to understand – and therefore you don’t ask to avoid looking silly.
In a study of the perceived value of asking and answering questions, students participating cited anxiousness (72.3%), fear of judgement (62%) and admitting to not knowing the material well enough (53.7%) as factors that discouraged them from asking questions in large groups.
Of course, this reluctance (as well as other formative traits!) can be carried forward into work, and this is where communicators come in! Creating opportunities to give constructive feedback, to coach and improve what and how leaders communicate with their people is the cornerstone of any good business partnering relationship.
Asking leaders how they feel these conversations are going, dipping into the elements you know audiences are interested in, and how they’re articulating these with their teams is a soft way into the topic, and opens doors for us to share further insight on what their employees are wanting to hear more about.
If you’re in the process of defining your business strategy, or reinforcing an established narrative – I couldn’t agree more that senior leaders are an audience as well as a channel. An extra step in your plan that stress-tests their own understanding and confidence in articulating it well, could help in closing a gap.