After delivering a keynote titled, “The Engaged Digital Executive” at a CEO event, I was pulled aside by the President of a regional bank. Here, in essence, is what she said: “I gave up on internal digital communications because I wasn’t sure if anyone was listening. I know the way people communicate is changing, but I just can’t seem to engage that way. What am I missing?”
She was right. The way we are communicating is changing. And organizational leaders - because most of them were already in their 30’s or beyond when digital tools like intranets, enterprise social, and blogs were becoming available – are struggling to keep up. Her situation reminded me of the Chief Marketing Officer where I worked in the 1990’s who would have his Executive Assistant print all of his email for him every day!
So let’s take a look together at 7 simple tips, culled from some leaders that we have coached, for becoming a more digitally engaged executive in your organization.
The first tip is the toughest to keep: you can’t give up. If you want to transform your body, you’re going to have to make a long-term commitment to exercise. If you’re going to transform how your organization communicates, you’re going to have to make a long-term commitment to communicating differently.
As a leader, the most precious commodity you have is your time. Effective digital leaders recognize this and rely on a team to help them with communication. To start with, find an advisor. Someone who will help you think through a plan, who knows digital communication etiquette and who isn’t afraid to tell you if you’re crossing a line.
Speaking of etiquette, there is a time and place for talking about your personal life – and the place should not be an internal blog. Talking about the personal side of your life can be a great way for your team to get to know you, and to bring down some walls. But it should only be done if there is a place where everyone on the team can participate (such as a “virtual water cooler” group in an Enterprise Social solution like Yammer, Chatter or Microsoft Teams).
Digital communication channels are as much for listening as they are for talking. Encourage your team to communicate with you by asking questions (and making sure that there is a way to respond). And then, when people reply, you should reply back … let them know that they have been heard.
Imagine how many corporate PR crises could have been averted if only executives learned how to listen to the people on the front lines!
Different channels work better for different people and for different types of communications. Engage people across different digital channels such as a blog, video, enterprise social and news feeds. And don’t forget some of those traditional channels – email and even gold old fashion printed notes all still have their place.
Did you know the average human attention span had dropped by over 20% in the last 2 decades? From a whopping 12 seconds in the year 2000 to only 8 seconds today. I’m surprised you’re still reading!
Point is: keep your communications as short as possible. Sometimes just sharing an inspirational quote is enough. Or just asking a question and requesting feedback.
All the new digital communication options can be overwhelming. And not all of them are a fit for every organization. Don’t try to tackle all of them at once. Pick one, get good at it, then move on. A “slow and steady” pace will have you up to speed soon enough, but a fast pace leave you where the bank President was – frustrated and ready to give up.
Need some planning or coaching with your internal digital communications? Contact the experts at C5 Insight.
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