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At the start of – and throughout – the pandemic, leaders were called on to showcase their Communication chops – the capital “C” brand of communicating; the brand that’s a discipline, an art. The kind designed to be deeply thought out – to inspire and assure; to deliver vision and lead through uncertainty and change.

Once leaders found their sea legs, I saw many step up and do this well.

But now we’re in a moment of…settling? Of breathing and recognizing the train is mostly on the tracks. It’s time to step out of crisis mode and redefine normal (for now).

I’m hearing – in Pulse Checks – that so much changed throughout the pandemic (org structures, priorities, roles and responsibilities, ways of connecting and sharing information) – but no one really asked questions about how to navigate these changes. We just put our heads down and powered through.

And now, we’re fried. We need to take a beat and start to really define things – like how our updated operating model should work and who does what and what tools we should be using and how we engage with customers and with each other.

It’s time to stop plugging holes – we need new rules of engagement.

This is a cry for dialed-up communication – with a lowercase “c;” the kind that isn’t about polish or story or cascade, but about deciding, negotiating, figuring things out.

I’m hearing things like…

  • We need to figure out how to work within – not in spite of – our organizational structure. I’m fumbling through, but really who am I supposed to collaborate with, when, and why? Who owns what pieces of delivery?
  • Too much decision-making is happening by people who’ve never been “in the field” or “on the floor” and therefore don’t understand the downstream impacts and problems they’re creating.
  • We’re supposed to partner with corporate or HQ, but really they just tell us what to do and we’re expected to execute even when it seems to make no business sense.

These are challenges that show up when small-c communication isn’t happening. Not well-crafted messages, but true, inclusive dialog with key stakeholders – as in, the people who have to execute the decisions, or interact directly with customers or manage the budget.

So how can we begin to switch gears, indexing less on Communication, and dialing up communication?

Here are some strategies I’ve recently helped clients to enact:

  1. Pushed several key decisions out of the executive suite, down to a group of cross-functional VP’s (senior enough to be empowered, but close enough to the frontlines to understand the implications)
  2. Started allocating one cross-functional project per month to a group of leaders tasked with solving the challenge and extracting a set of “rules” to be applied in future collaboration between those functions
  3. Monthly Town Halls during which the senior leader has 15 minutes to provide an update (anything else may be distributed in writing) and then spends 45 minutes on Q+A (unplanned, unscripted)
  4. Implemented a Sharepoint site with regularly updated org charts and role charters – so everyone knows who is doing what, whom to reach out to when, etc.
  5. Mandatory “Follow the Flow” exercise so when key decisions are being made by one department (i.e., Sales), they are required to talk that transaction through to the finish line (i.e., what are we obligated operations to do?) before anything is finalized.

What these strategies all have in common is dialog – right people, right moments, right decisions.

Have you run a Pulse Check with your team or organization? What is it they’re asking for?

Before making a rash decision check in on your little-c-communication. I bet there’s something in there worth leaning into.

And if you could use some help in understanding what people need and how to implement it…please do give us a call.