Communication Lessons: CEO Exchanges with Employees Matter

All kinds of rites of passage are happening in Wisconsin the next few weeks. Young children are entering school for the first time. Adolescents are moving on up to high school. Older teenagers and adults are starting college. And working professionals with college undergraduate degrees are expanding their knowledge and career opportunities by jumping into master’s and doctorate programs.

As all those and so many other students anxiously welcome the start of the school year, the nonstop learning carries on for the men and women who have enhanced their professional careers and earned positions of leadership at companies and organizations. O’Connor Connective is honored to partner with the St. Norbert College Center for Exceptional Leadership to further develop emerging and senior leaders from throughout the New North.

How leaders leverage their company or organization’s mission, vision and values as a guide to all communication with their staff is a central theme in lectures Bridget O’Connor, owner and principal of O’Connor Connective, gives to CEL participants. An article by Inc. business magazine poses how communication may be the biggest challenge for CEOs.

In the spirit of Back to School, here are three good lessons CEOs and other leaders might consider putting into practice as the chief communicator for their business or nonprofit:

Be present and accessible

Your employees want to know how the organization is performing and where it is going. As its leader, what you say and how you say it will be heard louder and interpreted far greater than what is said by another person on the team. So, tell them as you walk around, and be seen not just rushing from one meeting to the next but actually taking time to chat and showing your employees how much they are valued.

Chris Calawerts, our friend and president of Oshkosh Door, believes in “walk-arounds.” He is deliberate about spending time on the manufacturing floor, in the break room and out in the hallways. He also takes time to meet with every new employee at Oshkosh Door. As one of his friends from the Norbertine religious order, Abbot Dane Radecki, says, the “ministry of presence” speaks loudly to the way in which a leader shows his or her intention of being accessible and wanting open communication.

Be transparent – in good times and bad

Communication from the CEO to staff should be done on a regular basis and in a manner that is a combination of being motivational, transparent and direct. By doing so, employees will feel in the know and empowered to help the organization fulfill its mission.

Let your team know what’s going on – the good and the bad. It’s OK to share bad news. In fact, employees would rather hear those details from you than to learn of the news from someplace else.

Steve Harty, the president and CEO of YMCA Greater Green Bay, regularly communicates with his staff in an inspirational, transparent and straightforward way. His internal newsletter, called “Happenings, Headlines and Hearsay,” hits on what’s happening at the YMCA and addresses any rumors that crop up within the local affiliate of the worldwide nonprofit. The upfront premise of the newsletter allows the voice of the CEO to be heard clearly and makes it known that appropriate communication is to be the norm within that culture.

Be resourceful with delivery

Depending on the CEO’s personal style, communication to the team can be delivered in a variety of ways and settings. In-person meetings, digital presentations and electronic communication are common.

Kate Burgess, owner and CEO of Elevate97, is a fan of blogs. She reads them and believes in having her own. New hires say it’s one of the things they read when checking out the company. It shows the culture, the direction and the visioning of the company leadership, which helps prospects say “yes” to coming on board.

And then there’s the 21st century communication being dispensed by the likes of the YMCA’s Harty and Howard-Suamico School District Superintendent Damian LaCroix through video clips. They don’t have to be slick and glossy, but video recordings of 30, 60 or 90 seconds are a quick and easy way of communicating a message from the leader that still conveys personal emotion and compassion to his or her audience of employees.

Are you a business or nonprofit leader looking to sharpen and ramp up your executive communications? We love to share what others are doing that works, and we welcome learning more about your needs. At OCC, we help enhance CEO-to-employee communications every day. Connect with us today to experience your own rite of passage.

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