Simon Mainwaring in his interview with Maril, talks about today’s marketplace of increased transparency, accountability and authenticity and the implications for company leaders when control in a traditional sense is gone. He says that authenticity isn’t about being ideal or perfect. “ It is about being true to who you are and more human in the way you approach your business.”
This thought in particular resonated with me as I think about how business leaders need to lead in this new environment—especially during times of change and uncertainty. In many cases, the inclination of leaders is to wait to communicate until all of the answers are known. But in the interim—a critical opportunity is missed. The questions are out there, the conversation is happening anyway and likely the uncertainty is rising.
Simon talks about the willingness of leaders to give themselves and their employees permission to make mistakes. I would add to this and say that giving themselves permission to admit that they don’t have all of the answers but want to engage in the conversation to get to the solution is critical and certainly more human.
As communicators, our work is to advise and to counsel, plan and strategize to help leaders shape the conversation in a way that engages stakeholders in the journey the business is on. My own experience over the last several years has demonstrated for me that when leaders can step up in this way early in the process and engage in conversation even in times of uncertainty,the outcome is powerful.
It can feel risky to put yourself out there when you don’t have all of the answers, but a few practical learnings and coaching points that have been helpful:
- Acknowledge the uncertainty and that you don’t have all of the answers—but commit to getting them
- Set guiding principles that will shape the process and that employees can count on
- Explain the process or provide insight on the path forward
- Find opportunities to engage employees to provide meaningful input