The COVID-19 pandemic has no bias – we’re all affected.
As we to learn how to live in a world impacted by COVID-19, business priorities are shifting by the day, the hour, or even the minute. Despite the challenges faced by leaders, we can’t leave people in the dark as we synthesize information and refine business plans. The need for clear communication is greater than ever. And the competition for your people’s attention has never been as fierce as it is right now.
We must act deliberately to engage people. We must come up with alternative ways to create the emotional and intellectual connections that are so important to running a successful business. Despite constantly changing information and data, leaders must give people a complete story. If not, people fill in their own blanks. That story won’t be as accurate or complete as the one you’re telling them.
4 Principles of Remote Engagement
Engagement doesn’t mean people are happy enjoying free snacks or a ping-pong table. It means they’re willing to give discretionary effort for something they’re passionate about or believe in. Right now, for organizations that are going through enormous amounts of change while their employees navigate a crazy home life or tremendous personal uncertainty, engagement is essential. Doing this remotely gets even more challenging. Here are the four principles leaders need to focus on:
- Create emotional connections. You can only bring out the best in your people if you connect with them emotionally. In times of uncertainty, people’s emotions are heightened, and it’s critical to connect with them on this level. Helping them connect to their role in driving change for the organization or for your customers is especially important right now.
- Generating intellectual connections. People want to understand the whole story – the why, what, and how behind leadership’s decisions. This is where you eradicate the blanks in the story.
- Encourage behavioral connections. Human beings learn from one another. We watch how leaders walk the walk or talk the talk. When working remotely, this becomes a challenge and leaders have to work harder to ensure this happens.
- Empower social connections. You have to continue to allow people to recognize and reward one another. That’s the socialization, the affirmation, that humans crave. Even if we’re not face-to-face like we were, people still need that human interaction.
Be a Lighthouse
A lighthouse shines the light to move people in a certain direction. And helps them navigate troubled waters successfully. In times of uncertainty, leaders need to be that guide. Determining how often, in what way, and the gist of the content in your communications allows you to become that lighthouse. Here are three fundamental ways to clear the way for your people and light the way forward:
- Use the best vehicle for your message. Don’t feel limited to memos or emails. Would a video be more effective? A mass text, small-group discussions, virtual meetings – think about the best way to break through the everyday noise to reach your people.
- Include asks or actions. Empower your people with information followed by action. Give them the immediate, specific next step to take and help guide the way for them. This is especially important when face-to-face interactions can’t happen and people feel more uncertain than usual.
- Integrate stories in your message. Stories help people remember and make emotional connections. Using this tool creates intellectual and emotional engagement with your people. Stories can certainly include the vision and current realities of your organization. They can also celebrate successes – stories of your people doing difficult things with grace and kindness, or stories of new ways of working. The sky’s the limit.
Break Through the Clutter
People’s workspaces – their homes – can be noisy. Even if your people are in your offices, serving customers, or on the factory floor, there are a lot of distractions right now. Kids and childcare, pets, spouses, roommates, dishes, deliveries – there is a lot happening at any given moment. Leaders must make the most of their communications to stand out and be memorable. Here are three invaluable storytelling tools:
- Know your audience. You can’t tell the same story to everyone, so differentiate your stories based on what will resonate with the audience you are trying to connect with.
- Share big ideas and calls to action. Calls to action get people motivated and give them direction on where to focus. That’s very important right now. And make sure you’re connecting subsequent communications back to those big ideas.
- Don’t follow a straight line. Really great stories embrace ups and downs. The drama is entertaining and memorable. It’s important to embrace your organization’s drama. People are looking for honesty and vulnerability from you. That’s what they remember, above all else.
Effective Communication Has Never Been More Critical
There’s little doubt that organizations need to implement changes to navigate tremendous challenges right now. When you need people to change their behaviors and skill sets, you have to change their mindsets first. And this begins by creating the intellectual and emotional connections that get them excited and engaged in that change. Therefore, communicating effectively has never been more critical to your organization than it is right now. Be successful and you’ll be able to move your business forward, even during the most challenging of times. Like the unprecedented one we are living in right now.