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Reinforce, not repeat: Smart ways to cascade key internal updates

Only 7% of U.S. workers say they believe communication is accurate, timely, and transparent where they work, according to Gallup.

  • The big picture: Part of the problem is missing context — less than half of employees say they get the context they need to do their jobs well. So while messages continue to move up, down, and around an organization, enhancing trust and transparency, leaders need to more thoughtfully tailor the context and details they cascade to their teams.

That means executives and managers cannot rest on merely repeating the same ideas and information verbatim at every level. It’s about finding ways to harness top-level directives, reinforce key details about them, and infuse critical, custom details each area of the business needs to see the unique role they play.

Start by identifying who the key communicators are at your organization, working with them to understand who they empower most with their communications, and setting expectations for the role they play in your organization’s internal communications strategy. Every company’s plan will look a little bit different, but many have a core set of similarities: 

  • Founders and CEOs communicate organization-wide, and they most closely empower top executives and department leaders. Their communications need to be precise, visionary, and actionable. They would account for what’s in the best interests of the business, while still offering encouragement, support, and ideas to help the team succeed. They create and state the mission and message.
  • Executives and department leaders communicate up to executives and down to team leads and teammates. They most closely empower team leads with the goals, resources, and directives that help bring top-level visions to life. Their communications need to offer organization-wide context, but layer on department priorities, pacing, and expectations. They reinforce the mission and start the engines.
  • Team and people managers communicate up to department leaders and down to the employees who report to them directly. They most closely empower the day-to-day work of the organization’s individual contributors. Their communications need to  translate department-level priorities into practical and actionable projects. They reinforce expectations and drive the business forward.
  • Operations leaders and chiefs of staff communicate up and down the organization, and they empower everyone equally — making sure ideas, opportunities, challenges, and priorities are heard and handled wherever they arise. They have to be the most nimble communicators, able to understand the shifting needs of a growing organization, share information in a way that’s actionable without being distracting, and make sure all stakeholders are and stay aligned. They reinforce what sets an organization up for success and keeps everyone on pace. 

You can imagine how the process repeats — most effectively, each week. Teams share up to managers what they achieved and where they’re struggling. Managers synthesize it with lighter detail for department leaders to understand the path to goal. Executives bubble up key parts of that report to the C-suite, who keep an eye on organization-wide progress.

  • And from all the insight that founder or CEO now holds, they pick and choose what’s most empowering to the entire team, and use it to compile their next all-staff communication.  

The bottom line: Most organizations appreciate and activate on sharing an all-staff update. But it’s what comes next that makes or breaks how capable — or confused — their teams are once they’ve read it. Context is what’s key. Don’t merely repeat. Synthesize, customize, and reinforce.  

Go deeper: The communications channels readers want leaders to use.


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