What does good leader communication look like? For the leader, it looks like a polished speech delivered with conviction and well-timed hand gestures. For the employee, however, good leader communication is something that is not only heard, but seen and felt.
Leader communication is the composite of what leaders say, the communication behaviors they model, and the decisions they make in support of a communicative and collaborative environment.
If you only measure the quality of a leader’s speech, you’ll only be capturing a superficial snapshot into the leader’s presentation skills, not necessarily the impact of his message or the environment in which that message is inserted.
To measure the effectiveness of leaders’ communication, then, you’ll want to ask questions of employees that test their ability to take action as a result of the leader communication.
Questions to Ask
Communication for Employee Action
- How effective are leaders at linking what you (the respondent/employee) do to the company’s strategic priorities?
This question tests whether employees derive meaning from the work that they do on a day-to-day basis in support of company strategy.
- How effective are leaders at sharing trends in the business environment that are impacting the decisions or trade offs the company needs to make?
This question tests whether employees are exposed to the same information that leaders use to quickly adjust decisions based on changes in the external environment.
- To what extent does formal communication from leaders help you meet your objectives?
A version of this question can give you a baseline of employee perceptions of the value of leader communication to begin with!
Behaviors that Support Communication
These questions would be best to ask managers or even the direct reports or team of a given leader.
- How effective is the leader at involving and influencing key business stakeholders?
This question tests whether the leader models behaviors that include multiple perspectives before taking action.
- How effective is the leader at facilitating dialogues among stakeholders?
This question tests whether the leader can demonstrate his intelligence not by being the smartest guy in the room, but by asking questions that help others to share what they know.
- How effective is the leader at working across silos in the organization?
This question tests whether the leader uses his communication and influence skills to break down barriers in organizations.
Decisions that Support Communication
- When you have a question, how easy is it to find an answer from colleagues across your organization?
This question tests whether employees believe there is sufficient infrastructure (usually in the form of a technology platform) to find peers who can answer questions to get their job done more efficiently. See an example of a smart peer learning communication platform from MITRE.
- How effective is our company’s communication skill building training and development resources?
This question tests whether employees know about, have attended, and have found valuable communication skill development at the organization.
- How do you learn about what our external stakeholders think of our company?
This question tests how “close” employees are to customers and other external stakeholders. Do employees get their information from the general news, from targeted communication that your company shares on competitors or customers’ changing needs?
Ways to Measure
Once you’ve landed on the right set of questions to test for leader communication that drives agility, how can you go about doing the hard and dirty work of actually collecting information? Here are three strategies listed in order of effort to implement.
Low: Post-Event Pulse Poll
Is the leader speaking at a plant? Do a quick survey after the speech to test whether employees feel a deeper connection to strategy or have a better understanding of key forces influencing the company.
Medium: Annual Employee Engagement Survey
Do you run or partner with HR on your engagement survey? Swap out a few questions on style with questions above on the intent of leader communication—does it drive employee action? I think action is a solid indicator of engagement to boot.
High: Individual Leader Communication Assessment
Do you have access to a handful of leaders who might be interested in one-on-one communication support? Help build leader awareness into poor communication habits by sharing personal feedback.
Case in Point: Vestas
CEC Member Vestas Wind Systems joined us last week to share how they’ve used these principles to develop a leader communication program called Energize. The program, which includes a 360-assessment, workshop, tools, and ongoing coaching support, helps leaders not only to build a better understanding of their communication strengths and weaknesses, but also to equip them with the guidance to take action in support of driving organizational agility. Listen to the webinar replay or download the case study to learn how to alter your leader communication strategy.