One of the most effective communication skills a leader can have is to stay on message.
I was assigned to lead an organization that had various different and largely disparate responsibilities, none of which seemed to have much in common. We were a collection of small groups, but definitely not a team. To complicate matters our primary customer didn’t think much of what we did or how we did it.
As I got settled into my new office I realized there was a real lack of understanding between us and everybody else. No one outside our organization understood much about what we did and most of our organization didn’t really understand our customers.
Our first task was to develop an understanding within our own organization of what we did and why we did it. I gathered all the various leaders together and found at least some commonalities in what they each did. This allowed us to develop a mission statement – or our purpose for existing as an organization. That mission became our message.
Next, each of those leaders made that message clear to their individual teams. It’s important for team leaders to not only to understand how to communicate, but what to communicate. But, we also needed everyone to understand the mission and how they were important to accomplishing it. This is vital as even the lowest level person in your organization can screw up the message if they don’t clearly understand it and appreciate their part in it.
While our team, and yes we were now becoming a real team, became clear on the message, we made sure everyone we dealt with also understood. Our message was that we existed to support them. Everything we said and did had to clearly reflect that message.
We found that having a clear message was important, but really living that message was even more essential. We had to show that we meant what we said. Soon, communication improved with our customers and they developed a much better appreciation for what we did. What had been an adversarial relationship became positive. No matter the size or makeup of your team, you will find success when you:
• Develop a common message for your organization. This is usually a mission or purpose statement. It must be meaningful, not just a cute tag line.
• Make sure everyone knows the message, embraces the message, and stays on the message. Even the lowest level person in your organization can damage your efforts if they don’t feel a strong relationship to the message.
• Be consistent both inside and outside your organization. Don’t keep changing your message.
• Live the message you profess. You must consistently do what you say you will do. Anything else destroys your credibility.
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