Stretched too thin to fully meet every need, Communication teams are investigating alternative approaches that can increase their support for leaders while also reducing the overwhelming workload for their own teams. Hearing similar concerns over the past several months, Kademy brought over a dozen Heads of Communications together to share their experiences and advice and compare notes on how to best equip leaders to communicate with excellence and independence. In this post, we’ll share the headlines from our time together.

Leaders under the microscope

Many traditional Comms teams are organized to provide dedicated, full-scale service to the executive suite that tapers off down the leadership ranks. However, the growing perspective that everyone is a leader, has a voice, and speaks for the organisation is driving a much larger pool of individuals to seek Comms out for its expertise, insight, and access.

Putting our leaders under the microscope allowed the group to consider whether those we serve are new or experienced leaders, narrower or wider in role and line of sight, eager or reluctant to improve their communication skills – all characteristics that influence Comms’ ability to serve these leaders (and the organisation) well.

We also explored what leaders are asking from their communicators. Kicking off our discussion with data from Kademy’s Powerful Conversations with Leaders course, we explored the types of leader requests that most frequently come to Comms…

  • Campaign excellence
  • Tailored expertise around a specific audience or business priority
  • Project leadership that asks and addresses difficult questions
  • Capability building to set up innovative channels and strategies

…and added several more in the moment, including helping leaders to:

  • build their internal and external profiles and presences
  • decide whether to add their voice around an issue or announcement
  • know when and where to use Comms to best meet their business objectives.

Moving to self-service

Leaders’ continuing asks and expectations of their communicators have become a very difficult proposition for the Comms team, now buckling under the weight of a comms-heavy workplace environment. However, rather than hiring more communicators in proportion to the number of requests and leaders served, it seems that we may be moving in the opposite direction with many central functions slimming down, narrowing in their focus, and offering a lighter touch service for leaders to maximise their impact.

With this lens of a ‘maximum impact, minimum disruption’ approach to leader comms, we considered three basic supports for leaders that can build their communications excellence and over time, move them towards self-service independence:

  1. ‘How-to’ training and guides to help leaders use channels well, while also recognizing themselves as a channel among the mix.
  2. Line-of-sight content that gives specific instruction on what to say (or not), perspectives and experiences from all around the organisation, and help responding to frequently asked questions
  3. Practical comms training aligned with existing leadership training and in the specific context of what excellent communication looks like at your organisation.

As we weighed up how this approach might play out, two final points came to light. The first was the challenge of how to rein in the over-use of leaders in the cascade of communications. It was suggested that it was no longer necessary for 15 leaders to say the same message and – even when they may be the ideal channel – we should consider them one part of a broader multi-channel mix. “Let the CFO share the financial results, let the next 5 in rank sit out, and then have the sixth in level share it locally.”

The second was around pay-to-play contracts as a mechanism for making flexible resource decisions, with some caveats noted: that those who have budget don’t get more resources than those who don’t; that each opportunity still aligns with business priorities and doesn’t simply add more noise; and that the team is skilled in saying “no”.

Where to go from here

At Kademy we’re working on helpful resources for leader comms – setting up more opportunities to talk about leader service models, sharing specific templates that enable leaders’ channel use, line of sight, and skills development, and creating training for communicators to say no when it’s most needed and most difficult.

Perhaps most importantly, the whole group committed to keeping conversations going – both among peers and within teams to define who the leaders are that they serve, what their needs and asks for Comms support entail, and what ‘maximum impact, minimum disruption’ solutions might help both leaders and the team best.

If you’d like to learn more or join us in this ongoing conversation and work, please reach out to hello@kademygroup.com.