Uncertain conditions mean business leaders need to be flexible. We are in an era when government economic policy has changed abruptly, while a leading investment bank can one day forecast inflation could rise to 22pc, then within a week others predict it will peak at little higher than current levels around half that. Companies have had to adapt their business models thanks to the pressures of the pandemic, inflation and surging energy costs – and nobody thinks it’s going to get much easier any time soon. In the same way business leaders are having to learn to be more flexible with their communications – which is tricky when consistency of message has traditionally, and rightly, been valued. Turning on a sixpence in this way may be easy for some, but (as we have discovered during the period of mourning for the death of Her Majesty the Queen) very tricky for others, when quick decisions have had to be made and communicated. There were plenty of inauthentic-sounding “expressions of sympathy” and possibly unnecessary business closures/football matches called off.
Those leaders who perform best (for both internal and external audiences) are those who can succinctly explain the reasons for any change, without making them sound like excuses – and, critically, engender sympathy if they’ve had to take difficult decisions. It is important to remember to highlight any positive changes your organisation has made to meet the challenges of higher inflation/recession, particularly if they have benefited customers/workforce. However it is critical to avoid sounding smug, over-optimistic and unfeeling, if “we’ve improved efficiency” actually means” lots of people have lost their jobs”.
All these challenges mean business leaders have to be at the top of their communications game – remembering that getting right the tone of voice can be even more critical than what is being said. Social media warriors are always at hand ready to pile on to those who get it wrong, so get the right training in, and practice, practice, practice.
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