Institutions need to revamp internal communication

The leadership of a good executive involves not only their outstanding ability to manage themselves, relations with people in their environment and teams, but also institutions.

Institutional leadership (drawing in part on the ideas of Patrick Lencioni) can also be broken down into the following four elements: the creation of a diverse but cohesive executive team, the clarity with which that team shares ideas about what they need to do, the vigor with which they communicate those ideas to the rest of the organization, and the creation of a system for managing people that is aligned with the ideas to be put into action.

In this article we focus on the need for the executive team to effectively convey their intentions.

As executives, we communicate poorly and sparsely. Maybe this is why there is so much disconnection and intellectual and emotional distance in the day-to-day endeavors of institutions, between the management committees and the people reporting to them.

Without a doubt, the best way for an institution’s mission to be assimilated by employees is to have an executive team that strives to clearly and exhaustively communicate its vision for the future, by constantly reiterating what’s happening, what we want to happen, and finally what is and is not important to the institution.

The messages sent by an executive team are effective when they meet these four criteria: credibility, relevance, novelty and emotion. Without these characteristics, executive communication is inefficient and becomes more an exercise of publicity or internal advertising.

Communication should be focused on people’s minds and hearts. Our mind processes data, thinks and ultimately acts. What goes on in our heart, however, is a different story: It works better by feeling experiences, reacting with feelings of varying levels of intensity and ultimately causing a person to change their views and willingness to become committed. Institutional communication clearly needs these two approaches to feed back into one another.

Do we have good internal communication?

In my experience, the answer has almost always been no. However, the few exceptions arise when the answers to these questions are clearly positive.

  1. Do we have a credible, approachable, well-orchestrated executive team that speaks the employees’ language and is sensitive to their concerns?
  2. Do the executive team members communicate the same fundamental ideas to the members of their operational areas?
  3. Has the executive team accepted that one of its most important tasks is to share its vision for the future with employees?
  4. Would the majority of employees be able to more or less accurately restate the organization’s vision for the future?

Ideas for improving internal communication

If the answer to any of these questions is no, it would surely behoove your institution to shore up its efforts to strengthen internal communications.

How will those efforts be rewarded? More internal cooperation, more effective implementation of change projects and a better environment. All of this results in productivity, quality work and, ultimately, progress.

The improved internal communication could lead to any of the following:

#1: Clarification of the commitments made in the committees. The idea is as simple as ending each meeting by reviewing the agreements made, who has been tasked and what needs to be communicated. By doing this, the team can walk away from meetings without any doubts about what was agreed, which inevitably facilitates clearer, more consistent communication.

#2: Simplifying and repeating the key ideas, without going overboard.

#3: Designing a cascading communication protocol for exceptional cases. This communication concept provides a framework for disseminating information in a personal way. It is the process of getting key messages across, and circulated through the organization, directly from the executive team. Members communicate the message to their colleagues or direct reports, who in turn do the same, and so on, until the message is heard personally by more or less the entire institution.

#4: Try to use the maximum array of channels to convey key messages.

The most powerful of these is face-to-face conversation, although other effective alternatives exist, such as videoconferencing and any channel where proximity, interactivity and some degree of informality is present. Other key channels include the intranet, blogs, newsletters, email, the company’s social media, formal meetings, announcements posted on the walls, etc.

New messages need innovative backdrops. No wonder the medium is the message. For that reason, it is vital to have new faces calling on the institution to change its course when necessary.

When employees are spoken to, they don’t listen — they feel. Hence, when it comes to executives whose credibility is at a low point, the best thing they can do for the institution is to delegate their task to others. If they don’t, even if they won’t acknowledge it, the reason is because they place their own interests above those of the institution.