Effective communication is one of the key factors to leading teams, and certainly when disruption occurs, it is key to an effective response. Many people already felt overwhelmed by the amount of communication they were receiving prior to the pandemic. Today, we are flooded with communication 24 hours a day from innumerable sources.
During times of disruption, there are many decisions to be made and problems to solve, which require effective communication with teams. It is imperative for leaders to be thoughtful and deliberate in their communication. This includes being cognizant of the amount (and quality therein) of information being exchanged, as well as what channels are being utilized.
Additionally, leaders need to balance team communication with one-on-one communication wisely to maintain the depth of the relationships they have with each member of their team. In an article in Harvard Business Review, Rebecca Knight outlines several guidelines about how to effectively communicate with our teams during times of uncertainty. Many of her suggestions are included below.
The Right Quantity
Leaders must communicate early and often so that teams are informed as soon as possible about what is happening and their role in how the organization is managing work, solving problems, and changing strategies in response to the changing environment.
The key here is to create safety for teams by giving them information regularly rather than have them wondering or worrying about what is happening.
The Right Quality
Leaders can engage in quality communication by telling teams what they don’t know, what they are doing, and highlighting success on the efforts they are making in response to the new climate. Because uncertainty can produce fear and erode trust, transparency is essential.
Leaders demonstrate humility and integrity by avoiding hedging or sugarcoating. They must be able to speak directly to hard questions, and acknowledge what is yet unknown. They must speak to these with genuine courage and confidence that together everyone can navigate anything that comes up.
Leaders: it’s a good time to tap into empathy and consider what you would need to hear, how you would want to hear it, and what underlying tones (the energy behind the words) would reassure you.
Someone once said that communication from leaders should be part substance and part dreaming. Leaders right now are creating the right balance between the current reality and a compelling future. Infusing vision and positive mindsets into communication will help teams bolster their energy, remain confident, and stay focused on insights, solutions, and innovation.
This idea will be expanded on in Part Three, which will focus on constructing the right stories and narratives for our teams.
The Right Structure of Effective Communication
Structuring communication can help teams have multiple ways to stay informed and connected in an effective and coherent manner. Leaders can give their teams a sense of certainty by knowing the channels and timing of communication they have access to. Organizations likely may also have resources or build new ones to leverage, such as a task force or pandemic leadership team.
These kinds of platforms, groups, or events create spaces where people get information on anything from data, to team projects, to policies, to questions and needs specific to the disruption of the pandemic (just to name a few).
Leaders can then utilize team and one-on-one meetings to delve deeper into the complexity and implications of the information or issues covered in the other channels, problem-solve, innovate, and to connect on a human level.
So much more could be said about the power of excellent, effective communication in leadership. One thing is certain: If leaders can harness their own energy and that of their team through optimal communication, they will stand out and the odds are high that the teams will produce great results.
Part three will drive home the paramount importance of constructing the right stories and narratives for teams to drive results during times of uncertainty and disruption. Missed part one? Review it here.
Alice Rocher utilizes her advanced education from the University of Texas at Austin and over 20 years of experience to lead, coach and motivate others to peak performance as senior leaders. She conducts customized, competency-driven transformational coaching using assessments, cutting edge techniques, and coaching methods.
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