Engage and Inspire Your Team by Talking to Them Outside of Formal Settings

by Lou Casale
Republished from Entrepreneur, April 20, 2018

Every CEO needs an executive communications strategy to align and motivate employees around the vision, mission and goals of the organization. Large organizations have corporate communications specialists who can help develop that strategy. Smaller organizations may not have the same resources, but communicating to a smaller workforce in one location nonetheless requires a thoughtful approach and just as much tactful skill.

As a leader, you will spend a lot of time developing the messages you want to deliver to your employees, customers, partners and investors. And, while a lot of time is spent on the messages to be communicated, you often forget that how you communicate is just as important. This is especially true when communicating internally to employees.

Your employees are the backbone of your organization, and keeping them well-informed and motivated is crucial to a company’s success. As part of your executive communications strategy, you will develop a cadence of “all employee” communications. Perhaps it’s a weekly email or monthly round up of key initiatives. There will be a parade of internal emails about new product launches, employee engagement survey results, quarterly performance results and the like. There will also be in-person opportunities to speak with employees at staff meetings and town halls. These are necessary and important opportunities for the C-suite to directly communicate with employees about the state of affairs within the overall organization.

But, if you simply spend all of your time trying to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time, you may be missing out on the informal, more personal opportunities to engage and inspire your employees to action. Here are six ways to take a more personal approach to communicating with your employees.

1. Chat over coffee.

The conversations that once took place around the water cooler now take place around the Keurig. Want some one-on-one time with your employees? Skip the stop at the coffee shop in the morning and make a cup of coffee in the office. Before the stress of the day makes its way to everyone’s desks, you’d be surprised how many meaningful conversations can be had over that first cup of medium-dark roast coffee. A quick conversation there could quickly turn into a meaningful discussion in the break room.

2. Walk the walk in the hallways.

We all have our routines. Each day, we enter the office through the same door and walk down the same hallway to our desk. Try charting a new path and take the long way to your office. It will give you a chance to bump into employees you don’t typically see every day. Take it a step further beyond the simple, “Hi, how are you?” Be the conversation starter and ask them about projects they’re working on.

3. Host a huddle.

Let’s say the conversation you were just having in the hallway with an employee involves a few other members of the team. Assemble that team for an impromptu huddle to discuss the project. It may give you a chance to learn more about the challenges they’re facing and provide some insight and advice.

4. Grab lunch at the local hot spot.

Employees typically have a few favorite spots they tend to hit for lunch each day. You should join your employees when they do lunch at these spots from time to time. It will give you a chance to strike up a conversation in a casual setting. In a low-pressure environment outside of the office, you’ll have a chance to build a rapport and employees may be more likely to share feedback they wouldn’t normally bring up at an all employee meeting.

5. Target influencers.

Targeting influencers is part of every smart marketing strategy. So, why not take this same approach when thinking about your employees? While you should make the time to get to know as many employees as possible, a good place to start may be by identifying those who are managing large teams or actively participating in employee networks. Make an effort to connect with these employees on a regular basis. These influencers are important partners for you in disseminating the messages you want to get out.

6. Share something.

Maybe you’ve discovered a new business podcast that you particularly like or a new research study on your industry. Sharing work-appropriate personal anecdotes and interests is a simple way to lay common ground between yourself and your employees. It’s also an opportunity to share your insights, align around objectives and inspire those you work with to do the same.

As a leader — especially a CEO — you’re pressed for time in ways most people can’t imagine. Someone always needs to speak with you about a business-critical matter that needs your immediate attention yesterday. Your schedule is often double- and triple-booked. It’s for this reason that you should take advantage of the moments in between calls and meetings to get to know your employees. Leverage this valuable time to remind them that you’re a leader who is accessible and approachable. While your message is important, actions always speak louder than words.