The communication challenge
If you are in a leadership role, I would suggest strongly that your task is to fight tooth and nail against the achievement of this end-game. And in common with all leadership challenges, you need to start by challenging your own conduct.
Of course you cannot be expected to deliver personally all the communications content you need put across. And yes, messaging tools and platforms can be enormously helpful and have a place in the communications mix.
However, if you choose not to engage with people to deliver meaningful communication, in favour of using impersonal and technology-based alternatives, you need to ask yourself some serious questions.
What exactly are your motives?
- It is a better use of my precious time. So, you might save time by using email or messaging. But what price are you prepared to pay in terms of the effectiveness of the communication? You might have delegated this key communication to a direct report, or to a change manager, or to an internal communication manager. Do I really need to spell out why that’s not actually a good thing?
- It avoids having to deal with a lot of questions. It might save you from having to answer some difficult questions and from being ‘put on the spot’. But does this suggest that you are not completely convinced by your own arguments? And isn’t this really opting out? The whole point of communication is to convey meaning, receive feedback and confirm understanding.
In truth, like the teens in the survey, if you choose technology because it allows you to broadcast without having to engage or interact with people, then consider this:
‘Engagement’ has become a holy grail for marketers using digital channels. When trying to measure the effectiveness of digital channels (including the rapidly increasing exploitation of social media) the best practice advice is now to stop counting ‘hits’ and to start looking at what actions people actually take once they’ve visited your site, or read your tweet… or, yes, viewed your blog.
Positive actions (e.g. retweeting, rating a blog, recommending a product etc.) are seen as signs of engagement. But this is the language of consumer marketing.
Organisational leadership requires a much more substantial type of engagement, one that is not so easily delivered. The willingness and energy required to pull an organisation out of a performance nose-dive, or to drive through an all-important new product development, or a critical restructure, will never be delivered by an ethereal sphere of ‘followers’ who ‘like this’ or who chose to ‘share’ your ‘content’.
Flesh and blood, intellect and emotion are required in the right measure to achieve these things. Leadership’s task is to mobilise and channel them. This task cannot be accomplished without all that messy, unpredictable, challenging – but ultimately rewarding – interaction with people.
Electronic and digital platforms give us many ways to avoid this interaction, whilst seeming still to ‘communicate’. We know in our hearts that this is a cop out.
We continue to abuse it at our peril.