Three Keys to Effective Communication with Your Executive Team
In 2020, when the pandemic hit, we started hosting weekly forums with CEOs and business owners to talk through timely business topics. Our conversations covered topics ranging from the logistics of safely returning to the office, motivating a remote workforce, and how to leapfrog competitors.
In 2021, we’re continuing the conversation with our Quarterly Kickoffs. These are live, online learning events that combine the power of webinars and Peer Groups with the presentation of educational content, and time to connect and talk through questions or issues participants are facing.
During our recent Quarter 2 Kickoff in April 2021, we shared our tips and advice for fostering trust, creating clarity and keeping a productive meeting rhythm with your executive team.
As a CEO or business owner, having an open line of communication with your executive team is essential to driving execution and meeting your organization’s goals. Explore the three keys to effective communication and watch the recording below.
There’s a reason the saying “communication is key” is so popular. Effective communication can increase employee morale and productivity, and without it, you risk losing your key players. Here are the tips we shared in a recent Quarterly Kickoff to improve your communication with your executive team.
1. Foster Trust
Having an open line of communication with your executive team starts with having a solid foundation of trust. Below are three ways to foster trust with your team.
One of the most important pillars of creating a foundation of trust with your executive team is the ability to be candid with one another. This means having the ability to have candid conversations and give feedback, constructively and productively. A book we recommend on this topic is Radical Candor by Kim Scott. In this book, Kim defines radical candor as delivering candid and direct feedback to executives on your team. This is appreciated by the person on the receiving end as it shows you truly believe that you care for them personally. Obviously, this requires that you’ve built trust with them and created a safe environment that encourages this candidness.
Know personal histories
Another important element of building trust with your executive team is knowing each other personally. To spark conversation, we often recommend people read Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. In this book, Lencioni shares a framework for team members to share their personal histories and help their colleagues better understand them personally and professionally. Knowing each other’s personal histories will help your executive team connect on a deeper level and better understand their colleagues’ frame of reference.
Understand communication styles
Over the years, we have witnessed many struggles on teams. Sometimes it’s related to values and beliefs. Sometimes a team member is not delivering on their commitments. But most times, we have found it relates to colleagues having different communication styles. Having an understanding of your colleagues’ communications styles by using a tool such as DiSC will also deepen relationships and foster trust. By catering to an individual’s communication style, you open the door for deeper, more productive and meaningful conversations and improve your ability to influence them.
2. Create Clarity
With a strong foundation of trust, you’ll be in a position to create clarity in your organization and more specifically, with your executive team. Below are three ways to create clarity and foster effective communication.
Create ground rules
As a CEO or business owner, it’s important that your executive team have what we call “ground rules” that help create a foundation for your communication. These “rules” can be created by you, the CEO, or collaboratively with your team. In fact, we encourage you to host a session with your executive team to talk about what’s important to the group and pose the question “If we want to be a great team, what do we have to commit to?” Use those commitments as the basis for your “ground rules.” However, I always recommend that the CEO add the finishing touches.
Two examples of ground rules could be:
- “We’ll always bring up issues to the relevant party rather than going around each other.”
- “Once a decision is made, our executive team will fully support it.”
Set clear expectations
To create clarity, it’s important that your executive team has a clear understanding of your expectations. Share your expectations during strategy meetings, annual planning and at the kickoff of new initiatives. During these meetings, it’s important that you share with your team your vision for what success looks like, your view of the time horizon or any follow-up items or initiatives. It’s also incumbent on the executive team member to ask for this information and clarification if it’s not provided.
Make your presence known
Members of your organization, and more specifically, your executive team, should feel your presence as a CEO or business owner. This is different than being physically present in your office. When we talk about presence, we’re talking about the commitment to your organization and your team. This is evident through the things you’re asking people to do and the energy that you’re “all in” and committed to meeting your organization’s goals. Make your presence known by:
- Maintaining a positive outlook about your organization and your team
- Sharing enthusiasm about the future of the organization
- Focusing on how you can do things versus why not
- Staying positive, almost always
3. Establish a Rhythm
Once the foundational elements of trust and clarity are established, it’s time to look at the meeting rhythm you have with your executive team.
Time and time again, we’ve seen the most growth when people stop coming to you as the CEO or business owner for approval. Having a system in place will allow executive team members to create consistency and work to develop their own leadership systems.
Your job as the CEO or owner of your organization is to set the pace. This includes:
Assessing the types of meetings that are needed for your team
- One-on-one meeting with direct reports
- Executive team meetings
- Performance planning with executive team
- People reviews
The right participants
- Executive team
- Other employees
- Outside participants
Watch the video below to learn more about the ideas shared in this article, and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you have about fostering effective communication with your executive team. We offer a series of workshops and program options to help you and your leaders communicate more productively.