You remember the classic game called “Telephone,” don’t you?
One person whispers a message to the person next to them, and that person passes the message on by whispering it to someone else.
Seeing how much the message has changed by the time it reaches the last person in the group can be hilarious—but that isn’t what you want from your corporate communications, especially when you’re trying to share important decisions, convey your vision for the organization, or explain key initiatives that employees need to support.
One of the most common challenges leaders face is cascading information throughout the organization so that every employee hears the same message.
How to Successfully Execute Top-Down Communication
When communication is successfully cascaded throughout the organization, starting with top leadership and working down to front-line employees, it drives clarity and alignment around the goals and strategic direction of the organization. The process is simple and straightforward, but it does require some commitment from leadership.
Leaders must agree to communicate with their employees, either face-to-face or by telephone.
In this age of overreliance on technology, it must be clear that sending an email or delegating the communication to support staff will not suffice. Important messages must be communicated in a personal, tangible way, especially in a geographically dispersed working environment.
Whenever your leadership team reaches a decision that will have a significant impact on the workforce, the next step is to decide on how to cascade the message. Before the meeting is adjourned, make sure that all leaders are clear on the details of the announcement and their responsibility for communicating it to the workforce.
If the issue is extremely controversial, such as a reorganization or a workforce reduction, it will be best for members of the senior leadership team to agree on a date and time for announcing the decision together, across the organization. Any other form of internal communication, such as an all-employee message, can be timed to coincide with the first communication.
When a message is relayed to mid-level and frontline leaders, it’s important to give them the opportunity to ask questions, share their concerns, and make suggestions. During this step in the communication process, they should be allowed to share their opinions and ideas. This is the only way to gain the full support and commitment of mid-level leaders, especially because they may initially disagree with the decision that has been made.
Having a two-way conversation ensures that each person will be able to move forward and commit to supporting the implementation process, regardless of whether they agree with the decision.
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People need to understand that their concerns have been listened to and considered before things move forward. This will also help to dispel rumors and prevent communication breakdowns.
Learning to cascade messages appropriately is a simple step in building a higher level of accountability and trust in your organization. Ultimately, open and transparent communication should become the standard in your corporate culture. However, it can take some time and practice before cascading communication becomes an ingrained habit.