Communicate your strategy like a pro. International research confirms what communication adepts have advocated for years:
organisations that excel in their internal communications also excel in their financial performance.
In fact, the study found that companies with highly effective communication practices have a 19 percent higher market premium, 57 percent higher shareholder returns over five years, and levels of employee engagement 4.5 times higher than their competitors.
As a strong believer in high-quality strategy communication, I am not surprised by these results.
Successful strategy execution depends heavily on a thorough understanding of the strategy by everyone within the organization.
You can’t implement what you don’t understand.
But where the logic is simple, the quality is often lacking.
And even when people say YES to the strategy, they often think NO. When your employee says ‘YES’ she / he wants to say….
- I will make the strategy happen, no matter what
- I will work hard (effort ) to implement the strategy
- I see the benefits of the strategy and will contribute to the implementation
- I don’t see the benefits but don’t want to loose my job
- I’m against the strategy, don’t want to implement but I don’t tell it in your face
In short, most companies don’t spend enough time communicating their strategy and when they do, the quality and effectiveness is dubious.
Let’s see how you can be different and communicate your strategy like a pro:
Communicate your strategy using these practical tips
To get started, I would like to share with you this joke about communication. I found it on LinkedIn but was not able to track it down to the original author.
A popular speaker said: “The best years of my life were spent in the arms of a beautiful woman who wasn’t my wife!” Audience was shocked. The speaker added: “that woman was my mother!” (Laughter and Applause)
A listener tried it at his home. He said loudly to his wife, “The greatest years of my life were spent in the arms of a very beautiful woman who was not my wife!” Standing there for 20 seconds trying to recall the second half of the joke, he finally said “…and I can’t remember who she was!” and he regained his consciousness in a hospital bed.
Moral: make sure you get the message right. Communicate your strategy like a pro!
Here are 12 simple but effective tips from the book Strategy Execution Heroes to boost your strategy communication skills.
Tip 1: Communicate your strategy, but don’t rush
Don’t use an ad hoc strategy selling approach for your new strategy, however tempting it might be. You gave your new strategy a lot of thought so take your time, take a step back and prepare a thorough, tailor-made strategy communication approach.
Tip 2: Communicate your strategy, but avoid gold-plating
But you don’t want to wait forever either. Don’t delay your strategy communication for the sake of a perfect score. A 95 percent score is fine – as perfect communication doesn’t actually exist.
Tip 3: Assure follow-up communication
Once you start communicating, keep the ball rolling. The follow-up communication is just as important, if not more so, than the launch. Think marketing. People need to hear things several times before it sinks in and becomes relevant.
Tip 4: Build a best-in-class strategy communication plan
As I have already pointed out, communicating a strategy isn’t a one-off event. Successful strategy communication is a collection of consistent, well-planned activities across different channels, delivered by a team of individuals. These activities need orchestration. Make sure you have a professional communication plan covering at least the first six months after the initial communication.
Tip 5: Communicate your strategy: use proven channels
You can communicate through a variety of channels – but using more or new channels doesn’t automatically result in better communication. Your message might be new, but your communication channels needn’t be. Use the medium that has worked effectively in the past – the tried and tested. If, for example, you used team meetings to communicate important messages in the past, do so again. You might want to consider doing something special for the strategy launch, but in general, it’s best to stick to the communication channels everyone knows and trusts.
Tip 6: Communicate your strategy effectively = use simple language
Your strategy might be a complex challenge but your words need to be kept simple. The words: ‘To enhance our competitive position in growth markets and protect us against eroding margins and demand fluctuations, we are going to leverage our new distribution capabilities’ might actually summarize your strategy, but won’t create much excitement.
Tip 7: Involve the communications department – but do not hand over
It’s smart to get a professional to craft your communication – but there is a risk. Your strategy message might come back over-simplified or with a tone of voice slightly off-beat. If you opt for professional support, make sure you stay in the driver’s seat. Keep control of the message and tone of voice.
Tip 8: Inspire your audience
Start with an inspiring vision to capture the imagination. Summarize the vision in an elevator pitch, enabling everyone to rephrase and reproduce it to friends and family. An inspiring vision will create a sense of ownership, commitment and energy among your people.
Tip 9: Internal communication strategy: give your strategy a face!
Research shows that people remember first the form, then the color and finally the text. Just think about the logo for the Olympics. Communicate your strategy effectively by developing a catchy name and logo. It will boost strategy recognition instantly.
Tip 10: The strategy: what’s in it for me?
That’s the main question your audience will have on their minds. More specifically, they will be asking themselves: ‘How will this new strategy influence my job in a positive or negative way?’. Make sure you have an adequate answer. Remember: most strategy presentations don’t score well on this point.
Tip 11: Get your managers on board
Managers are a crucial target group for your strategy communication since they are in the front line, answering questions from concerned employees. They should be your strategy ambassadors, your word-of-mouth generals promoting the new strategy and its implementation. Managers are crucial to the overall communication success and deserve special treatment but, in reality, most organisations don’t even have a structured approach for reaching this target group. General messages in the internal newsletter, an uninspired mass communication or boring presentations in staff meetings, are usually as good as it gets. Make sure you do it differently.
Tip 12: Work on the communication skills of your CEO
Unless you are the CEO, this could be a potentially tricky point. Not everyone is a top communicator with the charisma of Steve Jobs. But you might be amazed at how much communication can be improved by working on style, tone of voice, messaging and delivery. So talk to your CEO and work on perfecting those skills. Remember that even a small improvement at the top makes a big difference at the bottom. And if you find it difficult being the messenger, you can always show him/her this article!
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