If you've been occupied fighting fires and planning out a million different scenarios for most of the year so far, it might be time to revisit your visibility, as a leader.
For many, working life has dramatically changed this year. When it comes to connecting and communicating with staff you simply can't ‘walk the floor’, hold meetings, take questions, have corridor conversations, be seen at 'town halls' or deliver presentations in person anymore. And this situation is here to stay, for the foreseeable.
But you still need to show up as a leader. The need for you to be visible to your people in imperative. You need to share your vision, the direction of travel, the highs and lows. Your teams and colleagues need you to be accessible – and above all, human.
It’s time to embrace new ways of being seen – and get comfortable and confident with it all.
Here are three strong ideas on how you can do that when everyone is working remotely:
Although email is a solid way of announcing information, it’s not going to help you get your values, purpose or personality out there for colleagues, customers, partners, suppliers or your wider industry. Yes, up-to-date news and developments need to be communicated – but it’s not the only thing you need to do to be seen.
Social media is surprising otherwise shy-of-social leaders as a powerful tool for communicating with a variety of parties. This is the CEO of Sainsbury's Mike Coupe getting some praise for his early pandemic efforts on social.
Make use of the free to use platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Vimeo, email, your website, your intranet, Facebook. Essentially, wherever your people are, turn up there.
It might mean using two, three, four of these platforms – but don’t guess this, ask your teams what their go-to social media apps are.
Make use of the company page, or a closed group page, to share information and engage with people. It’s called SOCIAL media for a reason, and now is the time to be social with the people who look up to you as their leader. They crave this from you – don’t disappoint.
In the past you may have relied on marketing, PR or comms support to carry this out for you, but you'll get into the swing of it in a very short space of time. If you don't feel confident or particularly slick at this yet - I know I didn't when I first started using social media in a more deliberate way - you'll find your 'voice' soon enough if you stick at it.
Take action now: Tidy up your social media profiles, make them consistent across every platform, make creative use of the banner spaces and ensure your photo is visibly you (no sunglasses or snaps of your pet).
My work hard once tip: you don’t have to drum up new ideas for every platform you use. Create content (that means write something, or record something, share something) and spread it across all your chosen platforms.
2. BE HUMAN
If all you do is send out a weekly informational email, then you’ll be losing employee engagement and any feeling of human connection you might have had with your colleagues and teams. People deserve more.
Now is the time to be available to your people in a range of ways, as a human being, and different styles or modes of content will hold people’s interest over a longer period of time.
We're more likely to absorb and engage with information if it's presented in authentic ways and of course we love being entertained.
This might be scary to some, but start by posting and sharing photos of you being you. That’s right - your hastily thrown together home office set up, your pet, a book you’re reading, you on the phone. It may seem shallow, fatuous, populist - but it works.
Other ideas include: recording a short video message every week on a Friday say, writing blog posts, posting something useful, sharing an article that’s interesting, ‘liking’ others’ videos/blogs/posts etc. and commenting to show that you’re engaged with what is going on.
Take action now: write down your ideas for when you’re in the mood to record or write something. Schedule time for this activity, or you’ll forget about it and become lost to your staff.
Word hard once tip: say the same thing, but communicate it in different ways. Your blog could be turned into a short video you record on your smartphone, for example. Expand on your LinkedIn post and turn it into a blog. Or ask a question to kick off a discussion, to engage people – and make the effort to respond to everyone who comments.
3. GET USED TO BEING YOU
The last thing people want from their leaders is communication from a faceless brand name or a repeated diktat from on high.
This LinkedIn post came to my attention, because I am the author of the book that this leader accidentally dunked in the bath. It’s obviously not meant as a serious bit of business communication, but it is fun and relatable:
You decide how personal you go with this, but whatever you choose as a subject – don’t hold back. We’ve simply got to get to know each other during this really strange time.
Take action now: Try recording a regular ‘hello’ video on your smartphone that you can share via the social platform you use internally.
Work hard once tip: When you spot a colleague sharing something personal like this, comment on it, sharing something similarly relatable.
Authentic and visible leaders, who can share their message in a relatable and human way are what is needed by so many right now. Make sure YOU are stepping up to the challenge of being a visible leader.
My business Bit Famous helps businesses and organisation communicate with confidence.