How can you maintain composure and empower your staff during a seemingly endless transition period? How can you reassure your employees that despite the turmoil, your company’s strategy and mission remain clear? How can you motivate your staff to embrace change and add new skills to tweak the way they perform? The simple answer: By having presence.
Showing up as a leader is about demonstrating presence, and presence is fundamentally about confidence; not the confidence you have in yourself, but the confidence you inspire in others so they are willing to follow where you are leading. Presence may be difficult to define, but we all know it when we see it. Presence is not an all-or-nothing commodity. Rather consider it a continuum, with your physical attributes, natural talents, communication skills, and character traits plotted along the way somewhere from one end to the other between “low presence/low impact” and “high presence/high impact.”
Trying to describe the concept of presence is like trying to describe a handful of fog. You can see the fog, feel it on your skin, even taste it, but describing a handful of fog requires the imagination of a poet. In the same way we can feel the presence of someone who is contactful. When someone is fully “with us” and “for us”, we can feel the vitality of the communication even when it is non-verbal. Presence is an ever-changing human dynamic. Presence is more than just communication; presence provides a sense of interpersonal communion.
The Center for Talent Innovation in New York describes presence as a dynamic mix of things: Gravitas (how you act; confidence is a key component), communication (how you speak), and appearance (how you look). And Doug Silsbee says that presence is a state of awareness, in the moment, characterized by the felt experience of timelessness, connectedness, and a larger truth.
Taking a moment to pause, check in, and see how folks are feeling in the face of change is key. Often the biggest thing getting in the way of transforming your organization is unspoken or unacknowledged feelings. Change is difficult for any organization. People are stressed despite understanding that the change is necessary. Leadership and employee communications are crucial to not only executing the changes, but helping people feel part of the organization in the future.
We have often experienced that many change management projects hit bumps in the road. Yet, senior leadership often decides not to offer consistent updates, insights, or dialogue opportunities about the change that is underway. For many senior leadership teams it seems easier to keep moving forward, believing that stress is normal in times of change, and hoping it will take care of itself. This approach can have lasting effects on employee morale and productivity. It can erode trust between leaders and employees. Unfortunately, it has become a common misstep in leadership communication.
Things can start going wrong when you don’t share the bumps in the road as teams around the globe hit them, or when you don’t provide context around progress, and don’t remind colleagues about milestones. Now what can you do to stay present and keep communicating in times of massive change?
- Continue growing your communication skills. Communication makes leadership possible. Being a skilled communicator – a huge part of presence – grants social status and influence. The lack of effective communication is a leading cause of the breakdown of relationships between employees and their organizations.
- Become aware of your communication habits. Inherited or past communication patterns can quickly lead to hurt feelings or emotional disconnection. Understanding how your communication style affects others and how to communicate effectively within different operating environments is central to successful leadership. Understanding how to interpret the communication styles of others and how to influence their decisions also is a critical everyday skill. Through mastery of your communication you can further enhance your presence as a leader.
- Be patient. Stick to your message, and repeat. As leaders we often tire of our own change message before our people on the frontline get it. Consistently articulate the messaging and demonstrate any behavior change. Don’t give up. Stay present. Repeat.
- Engage your staff at all levels. People need the opportunity to dialogue, share, learn from each other, feel they are not alone in what they are experiencing, and hear how others are succeeding or addressing common challenges. Technology provides the opportunity to enable collaboration, and should be leveraged before, during and following the change.
- Create targeted messaging for each audience segment. This is particularly important in a matrix organization where there needs to be many voices, one message. Create messages that remind people in an honest, authentic way, of why you are on this journey, and what it will ultimately mean to the business. Many people actually expect times to be tough during change, so acknowledging this fact will build trust and credibility.
And finally, get some expert support. In times of massive change, there is a huge need for strategic leadership communication. Outcomes of working with us include crafting business strategies and communication plans that drive revenues and ensure consistent messaging across all levels; gaining clarity on roles and expectations required to succeed in today’s challenging market; and identifying ways to work collaboratively within and across teams. Contact Inspired Executives.
Wishing you the enthusiasm, patience, knowledge and strength to lead your teams and organizations through the transition, Annette.