Bringing Compelling Stories to Life

How to connect when you’re disconnected; 3 things you can do to effectively communicate with your people right now


By the time I finish writing this, the world will likely have shifted yet again. As leaders, our people look to us to make sense of their world, to tell us what matters and what they should do.

But how do you tell them what they should do when you’re uncertain? How do you connect with people in a meaningful way when you can’t be in the same room with them?

Your communication is critical right now, but you may be making one of two mistakes:

a) Saying too much

In order to remain connected with people, we want to share as much as we can as often as we can. This stems from the misconception that if we tell people everything and we tell them enough times they will be engaged. The opposite is actually true. In practice, people don’t want more communication, they want meaningful communication.

b) Not saying much at all

If you don’t have the answers or you can’t reassure people, then it is logical to not say anything. The challenge with this is that in the absence of a compelling story, people will create their own. Worse still, people will pick up other stories from colleagues, family or the media which ultimately creates more confusion and uncertainty.

As leaders, there are three simple things we can do to effectively communicate and connect with our people right now:

  1. If you don’t know, say you don’t know

People don’t expect you to have all the answers, but they do need to feel like they can trust you. The most important thing we can do for our people is be honest with them. Share with them what you do know, what you don’t yet know, what you’re planning to do next and that you will get through this together. People engage with authenticity and you can’t be authentic unless you tell the whole story.

  1. Create one version of the truth

It’s likely that communications will be coming from all directions. Head office, global, onsite as well as the government and media. If all of this is reaching your people they are not going to know what to believe. Create a simple communication that tells people what they need to know, what this means, and what they need to do. Make it regular and something they can rely on. This will cut through the noise and enable you to reassure them.

  1. Speak to the heart, not just the head

In business, we typically speak intellectually, but as people we engage emotionally. To get people to engage, don’t send them a to do list or a set of facts with little or no context. Think about the audience you are speaking to and how you want them to receive your communication. Empathies with the emotions they may be feeling and let them know that you understand. This will go a long way to making them feel connected.

In a time of “social distancing” and “self-isolation” HOW we communicate is more important than ever. If you are able to connect with your people in a meaningful way, you can not only help them through these challenging times, but also keep yourself connected and focused on helping others. In a time of isolation, that could be the best outcome of all.