Ghost blogging is dead: Three channels for more authentic leadership communications

Most employees assume CEOs don’t write their own blogs. And in most companies, they’re right. The blogs posted under the names of the top executives have usually been ghost written by someone several rungs below and edited by one or two others before the so-called author ever sees the piece. The messages are carefully crafted, but often very lengthy and not authentic in the least.

That’s because most CEOs don’t have time to blog. Or because none of their trusted advisors has suggested the importance of them taking a few minutes to dash off a few paragraphs once in a while. Even the occasional tweet from the big cheese might be preferable to a highly produced essay-length post that is clearly ghost written.

Employees want to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Tribe’s national research indicates that employees of large companies prefer to learn about two topics in particular – vision and change – directly from their company leadership.

So what’s an internal communications department to do? Here are three suggestions for leadership communications that are more authentic –and require a limited time commitment from the execs.

1. Make it a Q&A piece or feature article: You don’t have to speak in the CEO’s voice to share his or her views. Rather than pretend the executive is doing the writing, let the internal author come out from behind the curtain. Ask three or four questions about a topic and let the executive ramble. Then edit a concise response from the words that actually came out of his or her mouth. You can also use the same 15-minute interview to write a feature article for the intranet or company magazine.

2. Make it a video: Some people are very comfortable talking to camera. As in the Q&A interview described above, let the executive ramble and then edit some of the nicest pieces together for a one to three-minute video. Let them know it doesn’t matter if they mess up and need to say something over again, because you’ll only include the best parts in the final edit. You might get several short videos out of one 3o- or 45-minute on-camera interview.

One strength of this format is that video can humanize executive leadership. Employees not only get to see their faces; they hear their voices and watch their body language, all of which helps them feel like they know them personally. And that builds trust in leadership.

3. Try a podcast: Podcasts are back. Or if you never noticed them before, they’re here. Podcasts on iTunes have topped a billion subscribers. Almost 40 million Americans say they’ve listened to a podcast in the past 30 days.

Plus, executives don’t need to worry how their hair looks. It can be a lot less stressful for many people to be recorded than videotaped. If they stumble over their words, they can try it again as many times as they want. Remind them that the edit will use only the most polished bits. And like the video suggestion above, one interview can be edited into several podcasts.

Interested in helping your leadership communications be more authentic? Tribe can help.

Leadership may know all the words, but don’t assume employees know the song

Leadership is listening all day long to a radio station employees don’t get. Those top layers of company management hear the same songs over and over. They know all the words by heart.

Most often, that station isn’t even on the dial for employees. They’re not in those meetings with C-level and the one or two layers below. They don’t see the same PowerPoints their boss’s boss’s boss sees. They’re not rubbing elbows with other SVPs or bumping into the CEO in the hallway. And the email that gets pushed to all employees describing the company’s new vision and values will rarely capture the nuance behind the new direction.

Tribe’s national research on functional silos indicates that executive management is often detached from employees. Although we generally think of silos as vertical divisions, in many companies the leadership level exists in its own horizontal silo.

This divide can make it difficult for leadership to know what employees don’t know. The vision of the company is clear to leadership because it’s a focus of their work. The business reasons for major disruptive changes in the company are apparent because they’re dealing with those business objectives every day. Employees are often left out of this communication loop.

Vision and change, however, are the two topics employees want to hear directly from the top. In other Tribe research, employees shared that when there’s a major change afoot, they prefer to hear it first from executive leadership. For questions and more details, they’re comfortable following up with their direct managers but that’s not where they want to get the breaking news. And when the discussion turns to where the company is headed, employees want their top management to fill them in on that vision.

Ironically, being isolated from the rest of the company makes it difficult for leadership to recognize their isolation. When we do employee interviews during the discovery phase of our work with clients, it often comes as a surprise to leadership that their employees feel so out of the loop on the vision and the reasons behind change.

That recognition is often the first step to aligning employees with leadership’s plan for the company’s future. When channels are developed to communicate directly from those at the top to the rest of the company; when employees feel in the loop on leadership’s plans; and when they see how their individual roles support leadership’s vision, it can create powerful alignment that streamlines success of the company.

The goal is to teach everybody the words to the songs leadership hums all day long. If you’re not sure where to start, Tribe can help.

Gen Y employees and the pressure of finding one’s passion

Younger employees just entering the workforce are often preoccupied with finding their passion. Gen Y (not to mention Gen Z, which is right on their heels) has been told — by their parents, teachers and our culture in general — that this is what they should look for in a job.

But that’s a lot of pressure. Identifying one’s passion requires more self-knowledge than an entry-level employee might be expected to possess. It places a tremendous importance on choosing the exact right position. For some, this expectation can be paralyzing, or at the very least intimidating.

It also promotes what might be called belly button gazing. By definition, searching for one’s passion means focusing heavily on the self. Extreme self pre-occupation is probably not the best way to be happy, which would seem to be the whole point of finding one’s passion.

Instead, maybe we could encourage these younger employees to look for ways they can help. That puts a whole lot less pressure on finding a passion-filled job, and switches the emphasis to a willingness to be useful and a heart that’s open to opportunity.

The irony, of course, is that by looking for ways to help, one is apt to discover passion. By following the path that appears when one looks for a void to fill or a problem that needs solving, one can become fully engaged and find a personal passion exists where it might have been least expected. Accepting a job where one has the chance to be useful can lead unexpectedly to meaningful work.

Interested in engaging younger employees in your company? Tribe can help.