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The Company Address is like the “State of the Union” but for a business instead of a country. The leader presents a look back at how the business has performed and a look forward to what’s ahead. There are lots of reasons leaders shy away from presenting this information. They don’t know what to say or how much to say. Sometimes they’re nervous to speak publicly. Or they can’t find a way to gather everyone together and don’t want to leave anyone out. Yes, there are lots of reasons not to provide a Company Address. So why do some leaders do it?
They do it because people need context to do their jobs well. Unless you’re running a widget factory, your team needs to make choices and judgment calls constantly. Your staff aren’t mushrooms, they’re people. If you’ve kept them in the dark, they won’t have the information they need. It’s worse than that. Because humans don’t like to live in uncertainty, we tend to fill in the gaps in the stories we know – and usually not in the most flattering ways. At the most basic level, humans need to feel safe. Safe from tiger attacks but also safe in their livelihoods. We have a common addiction to food and shelter, and we need information that assures us we can provide. A higher level need is that of belonging. We want to feel part of the team – and being part of the team includes being in the know.
A lot of people are leaving their long-term jobs right now. Providing a Company Address won’t prevent it altogether, but it might give them pause and give you time to regroup. How?
In the before times, we would all gather for a meal, maybe some dancing, which provided the perfect opportunity to speak to the entire company at the same time. These days, not everyone can get together, or even if they can, they may not be comfortable doing so. Not to mention the workforces that are distributed across geographies. So, it’s a bit harder to find the opportunity, but all these reasons make the need for the messaging even more pressing. If it’s possible to stand in front of the crowd in person, do it. But if it isn’t possible, try delivering the message via Zoom, via YouTube, or even as a podcast. The downside is that your competitors may gain access to your message. The upside is that everyone in the company becomes more aligned.
Determine the three most important things your team needs to know. It could be about last year’s performance or this year’s plans. It could be areas of strength you want to expand upon or new competitive forces in the market. Maybe your strategy has changed or should be reinforced. Pick three messages, tell them, then expand on each one, and then summarize by telling them again.
Before the messaging to the entire organization goes out, give the managers a heads up. They will be on the receiving end of lots of questions, particularly from their direct reports about what the message means to them personally. Give the managers time to figure that out by offering a sneak preview of the greater address.
It’s show time! Tell them what you are going to say, say it, and then tell them what you told them. The only time a script should be used is if you are recording an auditory broadcast. In any other circumstance, think about your key points and speak about them. Authenticity matters. You can do this!
You did it! As the fear dissipates it’s time to recognize the hard work begins now. Despite delivering the message three times in the same address, you’ll now have the job of re-delivering the message three hundred times. You’ll know you have communicated enough when the eye rolling starts and they start saying, “yeah. We know.” It will take about a year. Just in time for the next holiday Company Address!
Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, affects 5.8 billion people on this planet. Maybe you’re one of them. But don’t let that stop you. People are a company’s most important asset, and those people need to know what’s going on to do their jobs well. A little fear shouldn’t stop you from supporting those people the way they need to be supported. You can do it.
Bellrock is a management consulting and change management firm where remarkable is expected. Our purpose is to lead people through transformational change that enables them to achieve their goals and realize their dreams. We do this because we believe in the potential of our clients to achieve more, much more, and that work can positively impact peoples’ lives. When our clients succeed, we experience deep satisfaction.
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