When it comes to business communications and change management, it’s axiomatic that you need buy-in from the C-suite executives of your company. Regardless of what you need to achieve, it’s simply easier if you have them in your corner.
Indeed, given the power they hold by virtue of their offices, you aren’t going to achieve any effective change management or improve business communication if they oppose it. But getting them to sign off on a project, mission, or message is actually not enough. They are most useful to you and to themselves when they take on the behavior you are trying to spread throughout the organization to improve employee engagement . It comes down to talking the talk versus walking the walk.
This only makes sense. These are the people who are successful in the eyes of the company. The men and women at the top got there because they did the right things at the right time and were rewarded for it. So, if I were a new staff member wanting to get ahead, I would watch what they do and emulate it. If they work late, perhaps, I will put in more hours. If they solicit ideas without ridicule, I may volunteer some of my thoughts. If they take the blame for a mistake, perhaps I will be more willing to speak up about my own screw ups.
On the other hand, it does no end of damage to morale if the staff members are asked to cut back on mail room expenses while the C-Suite heads off for a team building exercise with spouses and significant others to Tahiti for a week. That’s not how you improve employee engagement, business communication, or change management.
Based on my 30 years in the private sector working for firms both at the Ma & Pa level and for international household names, the key to getting C-suite talent to take on the role-model duties is convincing them that achieving the title “chief whatever officer” means the beginning of their career development, not the end. They themselves have reached the pinnacle, perhaps, but their value is not in what they can do as individuals. Business is a collaborative venture. They now have to get others with less experience to do their part. The CEO can’t sit at the front desk and answer phones, but the CEO can be a model of effectiveness and efficiency that the person sitting there can emulate. That’s the beginning of more effective employee engagement. When it’s time for change management, the organization will be ready for that transition.
Moreover, if a woman or member of a minority is sitting in the CFO’s chair, you’re kidding yourself if you think only financial staff will look to them for guidance. The CTO can inspire people who don’t write code for a living because the CTO is a complete human being, not just a technical wizard.
In short, C-suite talent is the most useful tool you have in communicating what kinds of behaviors you want if you can get them to walk the walk—the beginning of business communications and employee engagement— and you do that by convincing them that they must lead by example.