Communicating at All Levels of the Organization
When you launch a new initiative with your team, do you use the same presentation you used when you talked to the management team? Stop! Different levels of the organization want and need different information – you need to customize your communication for your audience. Here are some focus points for each group:
CEO – Focus on business benefits and competitive advantage. If you are proposing a new initiative or requesting approval for training or other tools for your team, the CEO will want to know how it fits in with the vision/mission of the organization and how it benefits the company as a whole.
CFO – Three words… cost benefit analysis. Anytime you are presenting to the finance department you should be providing a spreadsheet with a clear analysis (including supporting documentation for where you got your numbers) on how much it will cost and what the return on that investment will be. The shorter the time period over which a project will pay for itself, the more likely the CFO will be interested in hearing more about it.
COO – Does your new initiative create efficiencies within the organization? Have you figured out where it fits within existing standards and procedures? If you want the COO on your side, you have to go beyond the “great idea” stage and get into how your project will impact other parts of the organization, and what resources you will need to be successful.
Your Manager – Before you can take an idea to the senior management team, you need to get your own manager on board. The C-level presentation is basically a highlight reel of the more in-depth analysis you do for your boss. So include all of the information above, as well as more detail on your team. Who will be involved in the project? What goals (team and personal) does the project achieve? How does it fit into the personal development plans of your staff members? Who will be accountable for the results?
Your Team – At the team level your communication needs to accomplish two goals. 1) Get everyone excited and enthusiastic about the project. 2) Present a tactical plan which clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of each team member. Since most people are not sitting around with time to spare, you will also want to communicate how tasks associated with this project should be prioritized. What can your team members put aside in order to make time for this new initiative?
Peers and Other Departments – Inter-departmental collaboration is a fact of life in most organizations. Maybe you will be adding new staff for this project (in which case you need to involve HR and IT at a minimum) or perhaps it’s a new product so Sales/Marketing need to be on your side. Either way you will want to clearly articulate what you need from each group, what deadlines exist, and how the project will be managed. Don’t expect to drop out of the sky with a pile of requests and be received with open arms – make sure you are asking for help, not demanding service.
Communication is a critical component of management. Balancing the needs of different parts of the organization and understanding the whole system is the first step in being seen as a leader throughout the company.