Magazine article Communication World

Inside Job: How to Help Your Leaders Improve Their Presence within the Organization

Magazine article Communication World

Inside Job: How to Help Your Leaders Improve Their Presence within the Organization

Article excerpt

Building a top-ranking business leader's external presence is probably easier than building his or her internal presence. Leaders rarely invest enough time to build their reputation among their own employees, yet how they are perceived and presented makes a difference in the way employees engage with the organization overall.

Internal communicators can play a pivotal role in coaching and guiding these senior executives to be self-aware, communicate effectively and be at the forefront of change. Here are some ways that you can help them build their internal presence.

Identify your objectives for raising the leader's profile. Is there a perception of the leader you are attempting to overcome? Do you want him or her to become more engaged with employees? Ultimately, the objectives of these efforts are greater trust among employees and improved connection. This can be measured by annual surveys of how much trust employees have in leaders and their messages. People who believe in their company's leaders are more likely to contribute positively to the organization.

Remember that each leader's personality is unique. Going against the grain by coaching the executive to behave out of character (for example, coaching an introvert to be more of an extrovert) can cause stress for the leader, and employees will notice if it doesn't blend with the leader's style.

Find out how the leader is perceived. You can't build a leader's presence if you are in the dark about his or her current reputation. What do employees know about this person? What actions has he or she taken that employees remember, good or bad? Is he or she perceived as humble, brash, loud, charismatic, tough, approachable, etc.?

You can find out what people think through informal polls or focus groups. Create a questionnaire and ask employees what words come to mind when they think of this person. How does he or she come across to employees? Is the leader articulate and able to communicate goals and expectations in a way they will understand?

You can also take a look at the leader's internal social media profile (if your organization has an internal network). How active is it? When was the last post? Which post got the most comments or views? Is there a photo of him or her? What does the photo of the leader reflect? Is it a headshot or a picture of the leader engaging with employees, say, on the shop floor or in a meeting?

Clarify the agenda. How will the leader divide his or her time in order to raise his or her profile internally? What will be handled directly, and what can be delegated? What are the near-term and long-term goals? What activities must the leader be personally involved in?

Presence isn't about the amount of rime spent with employees, but about the quality of the interactions. The leader's role is to reframe and reinforce the vision and specific initiatives that matter in order to inspire employees. By understanding that the leader can't be everywhere, the internal communicator has a role to play in helping the leader understand which interventions to lead and which to delegate. For example, if personal safety outside of work is an issue, as it is in India (with the worst record for women among G20 nations), the leader could direct the organization's attention by sharing stories he or she has heard from employees that others can relate to, by taking company transport to check on the safety record firsthand, and by instilling confidence among staffers. …

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