Being a good leader is challenging without having good communication skills. However, leaders often lack them. Harvard Business Review research shows that 69% of managers feel uncomfortable communicating with their employees. Poor communication competence inevitably affects day-to-day activities at work: it complicates the execution of tasks, slows it down, and – from a broader perspective – hinders overall business performance.
Why does leadership communication matter so much? First of all, it is a type of communication which relays information about a company culture, core values, mission and important messages to build trust among employees and motivate them to perform well. Secondly, it aims to deliver a shared vision and encourage others to support it. Thirdly, leadership communication helps build trust between leaders and employees as well as between employees and the organization itself.
Moreover, leadership communication clarifies company culture and structure, which in turn helps employees align better within the organization. Such communication inspires an open dialogue across the organization, “promotes collaboration, teamwork, and honest feedback”. Finally, leadership communication prevents miscommunication within the organization, and keeps employees up to date with important information.
The success of leadership communication rests upon 3 factors:
(1) Authenticity. Leaders should be honest and sincere. They need to find their own voice and avoid sounding too corporate. Employees will only follow and respect authentic leadership. Leaders should not worry about being eloquent but about being real.
(2) Visibility. To communicate well, leaders need to be accessible. They should not just rely on e-mails and official missives. They need to try to be as present, visible and available as possible. Consistent visibility shows employees what kind of leaders they are. This helps employees feel connected to the work their leaders want them to do.
(3) Listening. Good communication depends on good listening skills. Attentive listening allows gaining “a clear understanding of another’s perspective and knowledge”. Listening promotes “trust, respect, openness and alignment”. Leaders should let their subordinates voice their concerns. They should also ask questions that would help find out what people really think.
Leadership communication has undergone significant changes over the past few years. Leaders need to be ready to address these changes and adjust their internal communication strategy. They should take into account these 5 leadership communication trends in 2023:
(1) Employee engagement. Although employee engagement has a direct impact on employee productivity and business success, 85% of employees are not engaged in the workplace. To avoid this, leaders should focus their communication efforts on engaging employees and making them motivated. Good leadership communication helps employees better understand how they fit into the company culture, how managers view their performance or where the company is headed.
(2) Alignment with strategic goals. Many leaders are still facing the challenge of employee misalignment with the company’s core values and goals. This means that leaders fail to create “synergy and organizational alignment within their companies”. This is counterproductive: if employees well understand the company’s vision, mission, strategic goals and culture, they are more motivated and engaged.
(3) An efficient content strategy. There has been an increase in internal communications content that gets ignored by employees. “Communicators face competition, both internally and externally, for audience attention,” observes Karl Schmidt, Practice Vice President at Gartner. This highlights the importance of creating personalized and relevant content.
(4) Engaging content. 71% of employees do not read or engage with internal e-mails or content. Part of the reason is the fact that they receive too much irrelevant information. To address this problem, leaders have started using tech solutions that help them create personalized news feeds for their employees.
(5) More employee content. Two-way conversations cannot be achieved if leaders do not encourage employee-generated content. On top of messages generated by leaders, employees should be engaged by letting them create and consume their own content.