Let communicative leadership be a part of the structure

One way to work more long-term with communicative leadership is to review the available training and development for managers. Is communicative leadership knowledge an integrated part of this training, or is communication training focused externally (media training)? Or if HR is responsible for the session: is everything to do with communication about “the difficult conversation,’’ “conflict management,” and "coaching?" Or possibly, if the communication function is involved: how to produce the best PowerPoint slides and presentation techniques? The communications

Develop communicative leadership - a long-term work that pays off

Figure 8 Develop communicative leadership - a long-term work that pays off.

responsibilities of managers are, as described earlier, much more complex and comprehensive than so. Without support in all parts of their communications responsibilities and tasks, managers cannot reach their full leadership potential.

Other processes that are a part of management communication, and that therefore need to be interconnected include developing methods for integrating and evaluating communicative behaviors and tasks in ordinary management systems, in meetings between managers at different levels, and via business reviews related to various goals and KPIs. The managers’ communication responsibilities and behaviors are too important to be managed ad hoc and without connection to the organization’s goals and results.

Fully developing and integrating communicative leadership in the organization's management system requires a commitment from senior management and close cooperation between several different functions/staffs, such as communication, HR, finance, IT, business transformation and so on.

Volvo - train managers in communicative leadership

The Volvo Group conducts training for managers, with a focus on communicative leadership. At present, around 3,500 managers in total have undergone some form of the training, called "Communicating for Results.” Kennie Kjellstrom, Director of Communicative Leadership at Volvo Group, says that the training was developed, in part, as a result of a special analysis of data from an annual coworker survey. "Shortly put, the results showed that certain messages did not reach the organization. Communication through every level of manager was perceived as ineffective, and messages did not get through,” Kjellstrom describes.

The training focuses on how managers can communicate to achieve a result through their communication. A central part of the training is a five-step planning tool to help managers prepare their communication. An important part of the training is a real case that the participants are expected to work through and present to all the other participants.

Kennie Kjellstrom.

In the best of worlds, managers can communicate

Both management groups and managers who have realized the value of consciously and systematically working with their communication about the future, development projects, and change are prepared to devote the necessary time - time to create consensus, time to develop messages, and time to map out smart communication strategies. In a world where it is increasingly difficult to penetrate a fast-growing, often filtered news feed tailored to the user's own interests, successful communication is more crucial than ever before. Well-executed communication creates coworkers who find their work meaningful, as they will understand how change projects, goals and visions are linked, and above all else how they themselves can contribute. As the cherry on top, coworkers’ confidence in management, which is a weak spot for many organizations, increases, which is crucial particularly in difficult and challenging times. This confidence is the key to success, as new changes and obstacles most probably will keep on coming.

Tetra Pak - management communication and developing managers’ communication

Tetra Pak Processing Systems is a part of the Tetra Pak Group and works for better and safer food production. With 5,500 coworkers organized in a global matrix, it faces all the big communication challenges of a global company facing stiff competition. To meet these challenges, it has worked long and methodically to create better conditions for communicative leadership, by among other things systematizing the management communication process. They have also worked hard to clarify their expectations of the managers' communicative responsibilities and to create better conditions, through for example training and development on how to handle the biggest communications challenges. Top leadership has, in close collaboration with the communications function, developed a strategy and process for internal communication around strategy, business objectives, results, and change work - with a focus on top-level leaders. By systematically prioritizing and giving top leaders access to the strategic information they need, and even giving them the chance for dialogue and discussion of what the strategy actually means - and by giving them a clear directive on how to communicate with their coworkers in a specific way - they have increased engagement and understanding of the way forward for all their coworkers.

The management communication process consists of quarterly meetings with well-developed messages (films, descriptions, instructions, real-life examples, and interviews) led by top management. The managers in attendance are given the opportunity to ask questions and are afterwards given access to an internal digital platform and discussion forum where material from the meeting is available for download.

The launch of the management communication system several years ago was preceded by several surveys to find the right level of content and format. Since then, evaluations and adjustments have been regularly conducted, based on feedback from top management and on the needs of the organization. In certain situations, the system is activated more often than every quarter, as the need for communication has been especially high, for example in connection with major organizational and strategic changes.

Systemizing communication on a company’s strategic issues, as Tetra Pak Processing Systems has done, requires a high level of commitment from senior management and close cooperation with the communications function. This cooperation has gradually built a great deal of trust between the two groups, as well as an increased understanding of value-creating internal communication within management.

One result of this structured and systematic way of working with management communication is that measures of coworker engagement have steadily seen a positive increase. However, what the company values most is the positive impact communication has had on their bottom line.

"Today, our management communication system is a model and a way of working that is a natural part of managing the business - and that is in demand and highly appreciated by our managers," says Anna Droben, Communication Business Partner at Tetra Pak.

Anna Droben.

Ways to develop better management communication

r Prioritize which messages are most important for management to communicate. Trying to communicate "everything” or too many things at once is ineffective. Sometimes management's questions are interconnected and can be combined to become clearer, if properly explained.

2 Make the message understandable for coworkers, and make it engage and spark energy. Avoid jargon, exaggerated focus on facts and stories, and only positive messages. Instead, start from the coworkers’ perspectives and knowledge. Arouse emotions and connect to things that are recognizable, and challenges, opportunities or past events that many can identify with.

  • 3 Ensure that management messages are consistent, regardless of which mem- her of the management team is communicating. Management needs to agree on what to communicate. Having everyone say different things, explain important issues in different ways, or giving different levels of information to their coworkers will not work. Though management consists of individuals who may differ from one another, coworkers still need to have high confidence in them as a group. The timing and the core message of what they communicate needs to be in sync.
  • 4 Systematize and structure the process for management communication: how communication about strategic issues, goals and results should work in practice; who should be involved; when to carry out different steps; and roles and responsibilities. A good process is always grounded in close cooperation between management and the communications manager, or the communication professional responsible for management communication.
  • 5 Make sure that the process of management communication also defines how listening is to take place. How should management get information about reactions to decisions and important issues? And how do they ensure that suggestions and feedback actually reach top management - a crucial step to preventing decisions being continuously made based on skewed information?
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