Listen to Les McKeown read this blog post:
In a previous post we examined how to retain your top performers in the current climate, and in particular the need to re-establish a shared vision, provide a fresh challenge and use trust to rebuild a sense of ‘fit’.
I indicated that one of the best ways to rebuild trust is to ensure that communication with your team is consistent, predictably regular and authentic.
Here are five interactions that together will help you build a pattern of consistent, predictably regular and authentic communications:
1. Hold Regular Town Hall Meetings
You've almost certainly already held one or more virtual, in-person or hybrid versions of an employee-wide town-hall meeting to communicate with your team. For the foreseeable future these need to be a regular, consistent part of your communications toolkit.
Schedule them in now for the rest of the year, and vitally, make the cadence whatever you can commit to 100% - there's little more debilitating to a committed employee's engagement than to have a town hall blown off - it conveys the message "as a leader, I have more important things on my plate than communicating with you." - hardly a way to re-build trust.
So in deciding whether your town hall will be bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly, make it whatever you know you can deliver on without exception - and once the dates are agreed, tell anyone who has access to your schedule that they are inviolable.
2. Talk about the Hard things
The main purpose of your town halls (and the other communications discussed below) is to acknowledge the difficult times you've been through in the last period, and to then drive home the renewed vision of your organization along with the clear, implementable, measurable actions that are being taken to deliver on that renewed vision.
This is not a time to avoid difficult issues. If your top performers see you side-step a hard question, or worse still, muffling interaction so no tough questions get asked in the first place, you will weaken their trust, not rebuild it.
"The best way to rebuild trust with your exhausted top performers is to ensure that communication with them team is consistent, predictably regular and authentic." - Les McKeown, Founder and CEO, Predictable Success
3. Give Regular updates - especially when there's nothing to update
Consistency is a vitally important element in building trust. Regular updates form the cornerstone of that consistency.
At each town hall, (and in the other communications discussed below), be dogmatically slavish about giving updates on progress. Get out the notes on what you covered last time, and give an update on every topic - even if (especially if) there is no progress to report.
If nothing has happened on 'Initiative A', don't leave Initiative A off the agenda for the next meeting - just tell your folks that there hasn't been any progress. Otherwise you'll (a) leave a vacuum, which everyone will fill with their own conclusions; and (b) you'll risk looking flaky (at worst) and inconsistent at best.
4. Over-Communicate with your key teams
Whatever your 'regular', 'normal' communication cadence has been with your key teams historically, you need to up it by about 50% for the next couple of quarters.
Why? Because you're re-vitalizing your organization's vision, and your single most important job is to ensure that all your senior leadership is fully aligned around that revitalized vision.
Spend time with each of your senior teams with nothing on the agenda apart from the implications and implementation details of executing on the revitalized vision.
Ensure that they see what you see - otherwise, like in a game of 'Telephone', misalignment between you and your senior team will be multiplied exponentially as they in turn communicate their misaligned version of the vision out to their direct reports.
5. Have agenda-free one-on-ones with your top performers
As we've already seen in a previous post, the one-on-one is the single most important interaction you can have in the journey to rebuilt trust and re-engagement.
A few pointers if you're meeting with a top performer who is a clear flight risk for all the reason's we've been discussing:
- Leave management-speak and obfuscation at the door - they reek of inauthenticity at the best of times, let alone in a climate like the one we're operating in at present.
- Ensure these specific one-on-ones are wholly focused on the employee. There are other one-on-ones that can and should focus on performance - KPIs, OKRs, or whatever other measurement metrics you use, but these aren't they.
- Start with an acknowledgement of how tough things have been for everyone and ask the question “So, where do you want to go from here?” Encourage them to lay their frustrations out on the table. Acknowledge those frustrations, express sincere gratitude for the work they’ve done in the past and the loyalty they’ve shown you recently.
- Then comes the hard part - working with them to craft a new sense of purpose within your organization as well as a renewed personal vision.
- This may involve a simple re-affirmation on both sides of a renewed commitment to each other. It may mean exploring both vertical and horizontal moves that will give them the chance to build trust with a new team and re-establish ‘fit’ within your organization.
Ultimately, there may be nothing that can be done to avoid what is often euphemistically called a 'separation', but at least, if you've been communicating consistently, predictably regularly and authentically, you'll know that you've done all you can, and you stand a fighting chance of having that separation happen on your schedule, rather than as an unexpected surprise.