Who’s Yanking Your Chain? Enlisting front-line managers in your communications strategy
God bless front-line managers.
They take heat from above and below: bosses pressure them to drive teams harder and deliver fast results while subordinates grumble, make mistakes, get sick, cut corners, and ask for raises.
In addition to their own work, line-managers have to write performance reviews, monitor timelines, give instructions, coordinate schedules, check quality, resolve conflicts, all while concealing their own doubts and anxieties. And in the end, they do all of this with less. And for less.
So why should communicators be surprised when we give managers our carefully crafted communication toolkits—our key messages, Q&As, presentation slides, and talking points—only to learn later that managers forwarded everything to their teams by email, and considered their job done?
Those rich manager-employee conversations that we had envisioned?
That well-informed post-meeting Q&A session?
A glimmer of employee inspiration? Or engagement?
So are toolkits a waste of time?
Not by a long shot. Our mistake has been that we don’t properly prepare managers to serve as links in the chain that we envision.
For more than two years, Wordwright has been developing business in Asia through our office in Hong Kong. And here in Asia, there has been significant interest among our clients and prospects to train managers.
Specifically, we’re being asked to develop their communication skills. And not just presentation and writing skills. We’re teaching managers how to facilitate company-wide communications.
Seeing an opportunity, we have developed a curriculum that includes:
1. How to develop audience-centric key messages
2. How to find the right time and the best channels
3. How to conduct a successful meeting
4. How to check the team “pulse” afterward
When a message is owned and personalized at the line-manager level, it sticks. Employees hear something relevant and specific to their work and interests. Messages flow through the organization without being distorted.
Remember that childhood game called “telephone”? It’s a great metaphor for what can happen to the message you intend as it moves from person to person.
With trained managers as part of your communication chain, it’s unlikely that when executives say the word change, employees hear the word chance.