We’ve all been there at some point in our communications careers. Imagine a company event where everything seems to be OK, but then your CEO or managing director or boss steps onto the stage and does something only a business leader can do: Appear completely inhuman.
Does the above scenario ring true? In the absence of being able to publicly put our head in our hands, we just die inside a little bit. But why does it happen and what can internal communication professionals do to prevent it?
In a survey we ran a while back, 52 percent of internal communication professionals told us that their business leader (i.e. CEO/managing director) still chooses PowerPoint as their main communication tool at live events. We also found 53 percent feel that the “fear of presenting” is a significant barrier for their boss.
When there’s more pressure than ever to communicate with credibility, authenticity and believability, helping business leaders get over these fears and appear more human is critical.
At IoIC Live, the Institute of Internal Communications annual conference in May, we were talking about this issue and gathered ideas. As you’ll see, much of the work starts well before the boss presents anything. Here’s what made it onto our ideas board:
- Get personal. Encourage your leader to include a little about themselves in their presentations through experiences and anecdotes to connect with the audience.
- Cut the jargon. Cut the corporate speak and talk like a normal person.
- Lighten up. Laughter works wonders, so encourage your boss to both laugh and make others laugh.
- Establish a morning ritual. Urge your CEO to spend five minutes at the start of each day greeting those who are in, asking how they are and enquiring about key activities. When repeated at the beginning of an event, this can have a powerful humanizing affect.
- Know names. Nothing is more personal than someone knowing your name. A morning ritual will go a long way in furthering this goal but help your boss know names whenever possible.
- Drop in. Suggest your boss visit a different site/team/operation every week to say hello, boost morale (she can bring doughnuts!) and have an informal Q&A session to address employee concerns.
- Be accessible. Find the right platform (i.e. vodcasts, townhalls, teleconferences), but keep your CEO accessible. It is important to allow for plenty of time for Q&A sessions.
- Get involved. Attending fundraisers, baking a cake for a charity sale, dressing down on Friday: Whatever’s going on in the company should be going on for the CEO too.
- Open the door or more. More leaders are giving up the office and joining their colleagues in the open floor plan, but if this is a stretch, an open-door policy is a good second best.
- Show you care. If someone has lost a relative or is facing any other challenging personal situation, make sure your boss contacts them directly with an appropriate gesture.