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Leaders' top priority should be strong internal communications

A difficult truth: You could have the smartest people, strongest strategy, endless capital — but your team is set up to fail without clear communication.

  • It’s the beating heart of culture, strategy and implementation.

  • It’s among the most underinvested-in skills on leadership teams.

  • It impacts every organization, from 10 employees to 10,000.

“Watch your words. Words stick. Words move people,” Axios CEO Jim VandeHei likes to say. After working with 300+ orgs and innovative leaders, we’ve learned a lot about the value of finding the right ones…


1. Clear, effective communication creates alignment

The year’s most pressing leadership imperative — whether you’re navigating M&A or trying to get through Monday — is putting comms at the center of your business strategy and prioritizing its execution.

  • Why it matters: “Communication can be the most efficient, muscular use of your time,” Axios Co-founder Mike Allen says. “If people aren’t on the same page, they’re not going to do the right work.”

That is the unfortunate default for so many teams — spending time on the wrong work because goals aren’t clear. Their contributions become less valuable and therefore less valued, which is also one of the fastest ways to burn out your most ambitious folks.

Yes, but: When comms come from the top, they’re a force multiplier. Teams stay focused on what’s important. The work they do is more valuable because of it, and their bandwidth starts to expand right in step.

  • “So when you're at your most stressed — when you have the least bandwidth — making the time to communicate priorities will save you time because people will do the right work,” Mike says.

👉 The takeaway: Clear communication elicits action. Make it a priority. Set an example for the rest of your organization. Then hold the leaders around you accountable to serving their teams better, too.


2. Alignment powers engagement and productivity 

Nearly 70% of employees say they would go “above and beyond” in their duties if they felt more valued and engaged at work — but a key ingredient to that productivity is hearing directly and transparently from leaders.

The challenge:

  • Leaders and executives have started to tell us two things: 2022 is one of the hardest years ever to run a company, and every day feels like it brings 15 new fires they, alone, can extinguish.

  • With so many urgent issues, carving out an hour per week to write an all-hands update can feel like the most logical task to kick down the road.

That is the critical error. To stay engaged and productive, teams must first be informed — but creating alignment once at the top of the year, or even the quarter, isn’t enough. Reinforcing and recalibrating org-wide goals is an always-on priority for leaders.

By the numbers: Studies from Gallup have shown us…

  • One of seven keys that high-performers need to succeed is clear, regular and concise communication.

  • Informed employees are 4x more likely to be engaged.

  • Burnout drops 58% when leaders connect organizational purpose to employees’ individual work.

  • Employees are 2.8x more likely to be engaged when they talk to their manager regularly about goals and successes.

👉 The takeaway: No leader can afford to press pause on clear and frequent communication. It creates alignment, sustains engagement and makes it possible for staff to go above and beyond.


3. Productivity feeds growth

Now picture what alignment and engagement will start to unlock.

  • Teams are better informed. They can make smarter business decisions, more independently.

  • Productivity starts to rise. Departments can make progress and launch projects reliably, rather than with intervention.

  • Business success swells. Highly engaged teams deliver stronger outcomes, according to Gallup — boosting your bottom line.

The whole flywheel starts to spin faster — and it all tracks back to clear and consistently communication from leaders your teams trust.

👉 The takeaway: Pulling communication to the center of your leadership strategy also starts to save you time. Teams are productive and independent, fewer fires start to burn, and you can stay focused on what leaders do best — seeing and sharing where the business goes next.

🗓 Go deeper: Sign up for our Smart Brevity Open House to learn the methodology of Axios' Smart Brevity® communication style and specific techniques you can use in your own updates. 

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