Internal Communications and Jennings’ Six Rules for Driving Growth
With the Live channel being such a critical internal communications vehicle for leaders to connect with employees, I have the opportunity to listen to, and often work with, many of the keynote speakers we engage to deliver and support important messages to our audiences.
Recently I had the pleasure of listening to one of the best keynotes I have heard. As we ask of the many speakers we engage, this speaker invested time to ensure that his address was aligned with the business and relevant to the goals and objectives of the organization.
At a leadership conference that brought together this company’s global top 200 leaders, Jason Jennings (jason-jennings.com) delivered a message that specifically addressed the strategies and challenges this audience is experiencing as it enters its second year of a five-year plan to drive unprecedented global growth.
Jennings presented six rules for driving growth. These rules were founded on research that his team has conducted, identifying the best practices of the very few organizations that have achieved double digital top line and bottom line growth consecutively for 10+ years. From an initial list of 72,000, they shortlisted 10 organizations that met this criteria!
What stood out to me was the role that strategic internal communications plays in ensuring that each of the guiding principles these companies use is properly executed across the organization. This is critical to assuring that the objective, the sustained impact on the business, is achieved.
Here’s a list of the six rules that Jason’s research identified:
1. Make double digit growth a guiding principle.
Constant growth results in a continuous pipeline of opportunities for everyone in the organization. Driving this growth requires ongoing engagement of each community of employees to achieve their targets and keep a consistent focus on their stretch goals. This pace of growth also needs to be supported by a strategic recruitment communications program that attracts the best people to the organization.
2. Make letting go a guiding principle.
‘Letting go’ might include divesting of identified product portfolios or business units, in some cases stepping away from lines of business that have contributed significantly to the organization’s success to date. These tough decisions require the encouragement of candid conversations and giving people permission to challenge their leaders. Internally communicating these changes to legacy operations must be handled very carefully to ensure that there is respect and acknowledgement of the efforts of those employees that have taken great pride in driving the results from those business units in the past.
3. Turn making certain that everyone knows the BIG strategic objectives into a guiding principle
This one is certainly clear, and a task that we often get called upon to implement for many organizations. From packed goods to retail and financial services, organizations are learning the importance of ensuring that employees across the entire enterprise understand the strategic objectives of the company. More important is ensuring that line-of-sight to each strategy is established for each employee, so that everyone understands her/his individual purpose in driving the success of the organization.
4. Turn making lots of ‘small bets’ into a guiding principle
This requires a culture of innovation. Leaders must communicate in a way that establishes trust, conveys confidence and makes it clear that employees are encouraged to take risks. In other words, they have permission to fail. Developing and executing ‘lots of small bets’ means that employees are participating in the development of new initiatives in addition to carrying forward their normal course of responsibilities. The pace required can be overwhelming and require a constant source of motivation to sustain their commitment. The organization needs a communications channel that provides the means to report progress on each of the many initiatives at play. Individuals must be able to contribute stories about their own experiences and convey the progress that they are seeing or to which they are contributing. This will help them during those periods when their confidence and commitment are challenged by the workload they are facing.
5. Turn systematizing everything into a guiding principle
If there’s disciplined process in place to run every aspect of the operation, an organization’s people will be able to concentrate on driving growth. Establishing new systems and processes, and ensuring that the use of these practices becomes habit, often demands a change in behaviour and a shift in mind-set towards the change. Overcoming these hurdles requires engaging employees by communicating the reason for the change, the value it will bring to the organization, how it connects with the vision and strategies of the business, and the sharing of stories that validate the successes that have been achieved by those that have already adapted to the new systems and processes.
6. Successful organizations are led by good stewards
Good stewards believe in transparency and authenticity, and invest the time to be accessible and visible to employees. Those of us who counsel leaders on their communications need to focus on leveraging communications channels that provide them with the best opportunity to ‘be real’ in front of their teams. Being real is not the same for all members of the leadership team, so channels and tactics used may shift across function areas; however, developing an integrated leadership platform will ensure that leaders are aligned, are consistent in their messages and are delivering the relevant context that’s required by their direct teams.
I’d like to congratulate Jason and his team for identifying these key points and calling attention to them in a way that was so relevant to our audience. During his presentation, he supported these recommendations with data and stories that made them attainable and credible to any organization. While the size and scope of the organization doesn’t matter, the commitment, engagement and focus of its people certainly do.