leaders: make your messages meaningful

By michelle m. smith, CPIM, CRP
Leadership

The way in which leaders communicate with employees is one of the most effective factors in creating and increasing employee engagement, as well as in retaining top talent.

Employees want their leaders to inspire confidence, create certainty and build community when they communicate.  Doing this successfully can make the difference between employee compliance or commitment, and a sense of meaningless or meaningful work.

However, communication isn’t a strong suit for most leaders – they don’t do it nearly or broadly enough and many aren’t very good at it.

Five Ways to Ensure Your Messaging Will Matter

In Make It Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning, author Scott Mautz offers five suggestions to help you insure you’re optimizing meaning whenever you communicate.

1. Articulate a compelling vision that resonates with employees

A compelling vision makes membership within an organization feel special, enriching and meaningful. It also creates meaning by appealing to and resonating with employees’ identities. If leaders make evident how the vision supports both personal and company values, they reaffirm those values and strengthen the sense of community – the ‘we’re all in this together-ness.’

2. Drive mission fit

Messaging directed towards helping employees understand how their work fits into the broader mission is powerful and meaningful. Take the time to help connect the dots for your employees to enhance their feelings of self-worth and certainty. Your employees also want to understand what specifically they’re being asked to do, how it matters, and how it’s worthy of their time and energy. Addressing these basic human needs is effectively helping to answer the deeply held questions: What’s the point? Where do I belong? How do I make a difference?

3. Be confident when communicating

There’s an old adage that says, “An organization is never more confident than its leader.” When you communicate with confidence it breeds belief and certainty. Even in the face of mistakes or course corrections, your confidence should show up in the form of unswerving accountability. Communicate hope even as you’re outlining challenges. You’ll help create a sense of community, since optimism translates into a pride of being involved in an organization with promise. Furthermore, when you communicate your confidence in employees and their ability to successfully carry out the mission, it nets an increase in their sense of self-efficacy.

4. Tell stories of significance

Storytelling is a vital meaning-making leadership skill. You can make meaning when you share stories of when the team really nailed it, when they overcame adversity, or when they achieved accomplishments that may have been taken for granted. These stories provide hope, engender resiliency, allows stellar employees a moment in the spotlight, and motivates others to attain success too. 

5. Share goals with intrinsic value

Too often, leaders make the huge mistake of framing goals with only why the goal is important to the leader, leaving employees uninspired or disconnected from the target. Instead, leaders should be articulating goals to employees by expressing: What’s in it for them? How will this goal connect with them personally and emotionally? How might accomplishment of this goal help them to grow, and what else might it mean to them personally if the goal is achieved?

Categories: Leadership

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By michelle m. smith, CPIM, CRP

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