Let me talk to you about communication and how it is the mechanism by which you set the trajectory of your firm.
When most leaders achieve a certain height in their profession, they delegate communication. This is particularly true in our age of social media. A senior leader certainly shouldn’t spend vast amounts of time writing tweets and wrestling with graphics or video. So, they usually step away from all but their personal communication as soon as they can.
Let me say it clearly. This is a mistake.
It is vital—I say again, vital—for you to have a means of communicating to everyone you lead and that you use it wisely. This doesn’t mean that you handle all communication, of course, but it does mean that you maintain a channel of communication that works best for you and allows you to shape culture and inspire people.
In our work, we call this communication channel or mechanism “the stick.” Don’t picture a wooden stick. This term is taken instead from pilots. As you probably know from watching movies, pilots refer to the control device they steer with as “the stick.” So what I want you to know is that you need to have a “stick” of communication by which to guide and define your organization.
There are many ways to do this. The most powerful is video. It isn’t hard for the CEO to record on his own iPhone a quick story, commendation, humorous moment, or report about how well things are going. The last one of these I saw was the CEO describing what his state’s governor had said about the impact of the company on millions of lives. Think about this. Every worker gets this brief video on their device. They watch it. It moves them and makes them feel part of something big and beautiful. They feel more bound to a purpose and to the CEO. It all took two minutes to record and a few minutes more for the CEO’s executive assistant to send out.
Another effective way to do this is for the senior leader to be interviewed. This works particularly well when that leader is not the best on camera or in front of a microphone. Someone else asks them a question. “Ma’am, what’s the thing you are most proud of about our company today?” “Sir, how did you get the idea to make cupcakes the way we do here and that has become so successful?” You get the point. What’s important is that we are deepening purpose, culture, and belonging.
You can have a similar effect by email if they are well-written and brief, but video is the best way. I even know of one CEO who shoots video of herself walking around the plant, surprising employees with gifts, asking questions, celebrating moments, and telling powerful stories. It’s fun. It’s inspiring. It highlights the core values of the firm. It connects every member of the team to the person at the top. The company is thriving, and this is one of the reasons why.
So what is your communication “stick” and how can you use it most effectively?