Business Communication Skills for Leaders That Engage & Activate Teams

November 2020 | By Debbie Kramer

Tamika was recently promoted into a role where she became responsible for multiple teams. She had been working with her team leaders to create a vision and plan aligned with the organization’s strategy and plan. It was time to share it with the employees in her department.

Communicating with teams

Tamika previously supervised just a few teams that did closely related work, so sharing a vision and plan seemed easy. But now, responsible for more diverse teams, she wasn’t sure how to communicate in a way that would inspire and motivate them. She was nervous about pulling this off effectively. Here’s how we coached her to build on what she knew, while adding to her communications repertoire.

Things to keep doing

Some keys to communicating from her prior role were still essential in this new role:

  • Help people clearly understand what the group is accountable to deliver, and which teams will lead on various goals
  • With your leaders, describe in concrete terms what success looks like and how progress and outcomes will be tracked and measured
  • Tell people why the work is important, and make sure they believe it
  • Along with your team leaders, discuss the “what” and the “how” with their teams: What approaches will increase the odds of success? What critical actions and ways of working will help achieve goals?

These foundational communication skills, though essential, were not enough for Tamika to engage and activate her entire department. We coached her on three additional essentials that a leader should do when communicating direction and goals at this level:

1. Aligning the department with business strategy and goals

  • Tamika already knew to visibly link her department goals to the company’s and show her employees their role in the organization’s success.
  • She knew it was important to be truthful about the business, and not downplay the need to change and improve. She needed to align her department to the importance and urgency of the goals and initiatives.
  • She needed to commit to employees that she and her team would empower them to ensure momentum, to keep people informed about the organization’s competitiveness, and to confirm they have current information to make good decisions and stay committed to the goals.
  • Several goals and initiatives crossed teams, and some involved other departments. This was not their typical way of working. She had to make the case that collaboration across teams and functions were essential to success. She used examples and scenarios to bring this to life.

2. Inspiring hearts and minds

  • Tamika had spent time with her leaders to understand the various teams, what they valued, and what motivated them. She was learning how to predict what the groups would do across different situations. She used this knowledge to tailor her messages to resonate with different groups and help people connect to the messages personally.
  • She didn’t know all her department’s members, nor did they know her. To build trust, she had to be open about her personal beliefs and feelings about the organization’s strategy and goals, and show her own commitment and buy-in. She decided to describe her own journey and how it helped her align with the organization’s direction and purpose.
  • Tamika had one more translation to make for her teams: what would be in it for them if this all worked? To truly motivate others to be part of this, she needed to help them see their impact—on their colleagues, customers, and results. She decided to share examples to show how they were already making a difference and paint a picture of how they could be part of something bigger than just their role or team.

3. Aligning across the organization

  • Tamika realized that she had a role beyond communicating with her employees. She also needed to share this with her colleagues and get her peers and senior leaders aligned to her department’s vision and goals. This would enable the cross-functional work required, and get help and resources from other areas for critical initiatives.
  • As they laid out the vision and plan, Tamika and her leaders identified potential obstacles. Addressing these and quickly identifying issues that popped up were a priority they set for themselves. She communicated to employees that their leaders’ job was to enable their success and help them remove barriers to achieving their goals. She made clear that employees should flag such issues and problem-solve how to address them with their leaders.
Based on the above added communication skills, Tamika and her leaders crafted their communication and engagement plan and checked in afterward to ensure the messages connected. During implementation, they held regular listening sessions to hear how things were going, addressed questions, identified issues that needed to be resolved, and ensured resolution happened. Leaders checked in regularly, coaching and reinforcing people to work differently and focus on the top priorities.

Impact of effective communications and follow-through

Nine months later, the new plan was well underway. The leading indicators (people’s behavior) were trending positively for ways of working and business results. Tamika and her leaders followed through and kept the whole department informed about progress and results achieved, illustrating how those were making the company more competitive. The engagement survey showed positive improvements, and the buzz in the department was “let’s do this.” They were on their way!

Leaders Checklist for Effective Communications


Topics: Leadership, Team Building, Communicating with Teams

Debbie Kramer

Written by Debbie Kramer