Writing a message for the president's corner of an organization's publication seems deceptively easy. It is an excellent chance for the president CEO to score points with employees, whether he's writing himself or a communications specialist is ghostwriting for him. Through this weekly or monthly column, the president should hone his image as a reasonable person who is a wise and effective leader, a good decision-maker and a highly skilled problem solver who is on top of what's going on in the company and the industry. Writing such a column is fraught with pitfalls, and whoever is writing the piece must be careful to avoid them.
Don't talk down to employees. While the leader's message should from time to time convey the president or CEO's concern for the well-being of the rank-and-file members of the organization, the CEO should not come off as patronizing, condescending or smarmy.
Refrain from preaching. There are better motivational tools for a president than sermonizing or delivering locker room speeches.
Deliver truth. A CEO can do more harm than good in this kind of message by painting a rosy picture of the company's situation in general, or of some particular aspect of the company's performance, when employees know very well that the situation is grim and that the president's gushing is hogwash. Such a loss of trust is hard to overcome.
Choose the topic of each message with great care. You want a topic that isn't boring, that might inspire employees to do good work, that doesn't reveal too much of your organization's strategy to competitors, and imparts new and interesting information to employees. Such topics could include trends in the industry, plans for a new building and the advantages and amenities it will provide, or praise for employees who have done an exceptional job.
But be wary of that last item. If you shower praise on five employees and nine employees deserved such praise, you probably have alienated four employees. Best to make praise general in most cases.
A CEO should not limit communication with employees to a column in a bimonthly internal publication. Management expert Rodney Gray advises company presidents to get out among employees once in a while for some meaningful two-way communication.
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