Everyone wants to be indispensable at work.
Communicators, perhaps more than most professionals, struggle to attain that “untouchable” status afforded to staffers with straightforward, crystal-clear roles, results and ROI. Proving the worth of communication is not nearly as simple as arguing for accounting or sales, for instance.
The people that tend to work for me a long time, not only are smart, not only are driven, not only are learners, but they understand that the greatest value you can offer a boss is to reduce their stress.
“Reducing stress” looks different for different people, but here are four ways communicators can help lighten their leaders’ loads:
1. Concisely quantify the brass tacks of your team’s work. You know what’s stressful? Paying staffers and having no idea whether they’re pulling their weight.
Ease your boss’ worried mind by showing your work. Prove the ROI of your big initiatives, and present your results in a tidy, visually appealing format.
If you lead a department, go the extra mile to quantify your colleagues’ impact, too.
2. Provide insight into competitors and industry trends. This used to be a lot harder, but there are now oodles of tools and resources to help you monitor the competition and track industry trends.
To keep your boss’ stress at bay, stay on top of social media dust-ups, and make sure your company is ranking for relevant keywords. Demonstrating awareness is often enough to build trust and increase your authority.
If your bosses are big on “thought leadership”—which, ideally, you have a less annoying moniker for—take time to either craft articles for them or get their quotes placed in influential publications. If your CEO is SEO-obsessed, spend extra time on keywords and link building.
Showing your boss that you’re keeping an eye on your fiercest competitors is an easy way to alleviate executive anxiety—and possibly paranoia.
3. Help her look good, but also push her to grow. Help, coach, assist and lend support, but do set firm, healthy boundaries. You are not the CEO’s personal secretary. You are not the VP’s PowerPoint Presentation Designer. Contrary to popular belief, you are not a short-order chef spooning out messaging gruel at the 24-hour Comms Diner (analogy nod to the great Jim Ylisela).
Do what you can to support execs, but don’t let them bombard you with last-minute requests. You can reduce their stress without becoming their bondservant.
Reducing stress is also about helping execs communicate in ways that suit their personality. Don’t try to shoehorn leaders into comms initiatives that don’t fit with their schedule, style or strengths.
If he’s a natural schmoozer, encourage him to block off time to schmooze with employees. If she’s an ace on camera, prioritize video for internal messaging. If he’s a freewheeling maverick with no filter, it’s on you to step up to the mic when reporters call.
Try to strike a healthy balance between being helpful for the CEO and not overstepping, so as to prevent her from learning, growing or building new skills.
4. Become a trusted consigliere and workplace whisperer. Gallup’s research found that the No. 1 predictor of employee engagement is whether someone has a “best friend” at work. CEOs rely on relationships, too, so it pays to establish trust with the top brass.
This isn’t something you can force or control, obviously, but you can go above and beyond to learn which metrics matter most to your boss. Help execs develop genuine, meaningful connections with staff members, and you can certainly set them up for internal success. Better, more substantive communication can be a profound and long-lasting stress reliever.
Whenever and wherever you can, prioritize relationships. Establish a line of open, fruitful communication among leaders, managers and workers. Spend time with people at all levels to gather insight into the concerns, issues and successes that can make (or break) your company culture. Strive to become a workplace whisperer, a communication consigliere, of sorts, who plays an indispensable role in cultivating a peaceful, uplifting environment.
That’s a great way to reduce your boss’ stress, and you might just become a hero to your colleagues, too.
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