It’s no surprise that time – or rather, a lack of it – is one of the most common barriers to effective leadership communication. As a leader, you are constantly pulled in multiple directions. You have a million unread emails in your inbox; your diary is triple booked; and you have enough frequent flyer points to get a free ride to Mars with SpaceX…if only you had the time!
In the absence of time, the tendency is for leaders to communicate ‘on the fly’. This not only dilutes the impact of your communication, you run the risk of sending mixed messages over time, causing confusion and uncertainty amongst your stakeholders.
By giving yourself a small gift of time upfront, you can save a lot more time later down the track. Here are three ways to make time for effective leadership communication:
You can’t plan for everything, but you can plan your communication activities based on what you already know. Take the time to review your business strategy and plan. Identify the key events, milestones, projects, launches, tenders, reviews, activities and dates. Chances are you’ll need to communicate with your key stakeholders around each of these, so use them as a foundation to map out a calendar of communication activities for the year ahead.
Prepare the fundamentals
Again, you can’t prepare for all eventualities, but if you take the time to prepare for the activities you have planned out, it means you will be far better equipped to respond to any ad hoc or unforeseen events. Use your calendar of communication activities to create a list of communication materials that might be required. At a minimum, you should always be prepared with the following fundamentals:
- your purpose as a leader and/or business
- your vision, mission and values
- your USP
- your overarching key message/sfor each of your stakeholder groups
These fundamentals give purpose to your leadership communication. They shouldn’t change that frequently over the course of 12 months, so preparing them early on will help you save time in the long run because they should form the backbone of all your communication activity, regardless of whether it is proactive or reactive.
Delegate a ‘Chief Nag’
When I work with clients, I always ask them how I can be of maximum value. One reply that will forever stick in my mind is when a client said he needed me to be his “Chief Nag”.
If you look it up, nagging is defined as: “harassing (someone) constantly to do something that they are averse to.”
I should point out, my client was certainly not averse to communicating with his team. On the contrary in fact. He knew it was perhaps his primary duty as leader of the organisation. In light of this, and in recognition of the time pressures he faced as the leader of the business, he appointed me to act as ‘chief nag’ – harassing him in pursuit of effective leadership communication.
I can’t say that nagging is something I necessarily aspire to, but it is – in essence at least – the perfect description for a leadership communications consultant like myself. I am there to ensure that as a leader, you are constantly communicating with purpose. To remind you that you have a responsibility to inform, engage and inspire through your communication. To help you consistently communicate the right messages, at the right time and in the right way so your team, customers, peers or networks hear, interpret and understand you as intended. To keep you accountable and make sure you are communicating through your actions and behaviours, not just through your words. I am there to help you earn credibility and trust as a leader. I am there to help you connect with your stakeholders so you contribute with maximum impact. If this is what it means to be a “Chief Nag”, then I wear the title with pride.
You may not be ready to appoint a leadership communications consultant yet, but I highly recommend that you delegate someone as “Chief Nag” to help keep your communication consistent.
Don’t let time be a barrier to effective leadership communication. Plan a calendar of communications activity; prepare key messages to give purpose to your communication; and delegate a Chief Nag to keep you accountable and ensure consistency so you don’t waste your own time, or that of your stakeholders.