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Executive Communication

Building Your Team for Total Alignment

Increasingly, hyper-growth companies are realizing that alignment at the executive level is fundamental to the success of their mission. Jack Welch is celebrated for building talented and cohesive top teams during his tenure at GE. No CEO working alone, no matter how talented, can assure the health of sustained hyper-growth. Talent alone does not guarantee teamwork. Teams do not magically coalesce overnight. Growth requires a coordinated top team of leaders. A poorly performing team creates conflicting agendas and turf wars; a high-performing one, alignment and focus.

Top teams are typically composed of head-strong, A-player personalities who must sometimes work at cross-purposes. Fortunately, our work at BOSTON TURNER suggests that there is a straightforward process for improving their teamwork.

Velocity executive teams focus on three areas. First, they share a common direction. After mapping out their Velocity Ideals, they commit to them together, both intellectually and emotionally. Second, they see each other as their key team taking their clues from each other and not from their subordinates. They are close professionally but know how to keep an appropriate distance personally to avoid unnecessary conflicts. Third, they commit to constant learning. They are always upping their game, sharing books and new ideas, attending classes and seminars and refusing to stagnate. The hard part is getting the team to work on all three fronts, but with effective and objective coaching, talented teams can come together quickly.

We have worked with some of the most divisive and disagreeable executive teams in the history of corporate management to break down barriers of communication and create alignment from the top down. Alignment does not end at the executive level. Hyper-growth companies must commit to the mission and values from the mail-room to the corner office. Proper alignment takes four steps: an inclusive planning process, review and measurement, rewards for results and a supportive environment that encourages hyper-growth on a personal level as well as in corporate goals. As these elements are also essential parts of our model, establishing an Enterprise Velocity culture actually guarantees company alignment.

Effective Communications Plans

You’re an expert at running your company, but that doesn’t mean you’re an expert at creating effective communications that drive alignment through your organization. Too many executives think that good communication is about frequency and send out regular company-wide emails explaining their every move in great detail. Such a communication style is ineffective because it squanders the value of critical communications by lumping them together with FYIs. Employees stop reading these emails with regularity because they cannot discern which ones are truly worth the time investment. Other executives fail on the other side of the spectrum by not communicating at all, assuming that their directors and managers are passing along the details to their teams. Even when information is disseminated in this fashion, it comes through the lens of the manager and may subtly change in tone and connotation. Most managers are busy and might leave out pieces of information in their haste.

If you fall into the first camp – executives who communicate everything – stop now before clicking the “send” button on your next memo. Don’t waste any more of your communications credibility before establishing your communications strategy. If you fall into the second camp – those who communicate sporadically or next to nothing – you must establish a communications plan to keep your company moving. Think of regular patterns of communication as the oil for your hyper-growth engine.

Establishing a communication strategy requires that you think out:

  • Appropriate content by audience
  • Priority and urgency of different types of messages
  • Channels and frequency of communication
  • Style, tone and technique

What to communicate to which audience is a step many skip. Of course, overcommunicating is always preferable to undercommunicating; however, if you send the wrong content to certain groups of people you are in effect training them to ignore your future communications. Deciding on the content needs goes beyond narrowing the distribution of sensitive information. It considers which topics are appropriate by group and what level of detail is necessary. For example, an IT manager may be tempted to send out CRM support notes in email to the entire company when what really might be more appropriate is to send a brief explanation of the content and a hyperlink to a shared folder to just the sales team.

You should consider how you want to communicate based on priority or urgency. This might mean the end of company-wide “there’s extra pizza in the third-floor refrigerator,” emails. Urgent, “must-know” messages should be communicated in multiple methods through the most public channels such as email and bulletin boards. They should be communicated immediately. Should-know information could be contained in blogs, newsletters, training videos and manuals or intranets. Nice to-know information might go into interactive forums or a knowledge base with occasional reference in mass channels like newsletters.

Consider your channels and frequency of communications in a similar fashion that you would your marketing communications. There are many channels available to communicate to your employees and partners:

Pros: Convenient, consistent delivery
Cons: Competes with many messages, may interfere with mission-critical messages

Intranet/Public Folders
Pros: Repository of information for repeated use, tracking and versioning capabilities
Cons: Out of sight out of mind, requires training and  resources

Text or Instant Messaging
Pros: Great time saver especially for quick critical messages
Cons: Security concerns, ripe for abuse:

Pros: New and trendy, good for feedback and collaboration, helpful in encouraging regular communication patterns and routines
Cons: Style may be too casual for some companies, full and honest disclosure is required to be credible so may not be appropriate for sensitive information

Pros: Regular and familiar, good summary of recent information
Cons: Poor design and content can actually hinder communications, too infrequent to use for more urgent matters

Interactive Forums
Pros: Great for collaboration and support
Cons: Lack of structure can make them messy, requires planning and resources, requires moderators to enforce forum standards

Bulletin Boards
Pros: Obvious and visual, accessible by all
Cons: Might be ignored, often cluttered with inappropriate content

When thinking about the frequency of your communications, think of three related issues: frequency, recency and amount of information. That is, how often should you be communicating, when was the last time you communicated a similar message and how much information has already been transmitted on the subject.

When it comes to issues of style, tone and technique, it is best to leave the work to the professionals. This is particularly true for CEOs and top executives whose every move is under particular scrutiny. As a top executive, the things you say and do are magnified in importance and issues such as grammar, tone, punctuation and word choices can inflict serious damage on your credibility. For company-wide emails, blogs, newsletters and the like, be sure to run all of your communications through your corporate communications department or consultant for consistency. If you are doing a lot of speaking to your company and partners or other stakeholders – which we heartily recommend – it is worth every penny to acquire communication coaching. Sometimes what you say is less important than how you say it in those moments and speaking is not an intuitive skill. It requires an objective coach to bring out the great communicator inside of you.

Proven Experience

Boston Turner’s experience spans over 15 years of hands-on experience in the industries and practices we serve. Our professionals have worked with executive leaders in technology, enterprise software, payments, e-commerce, distribution and education.

Our founder, Matthew Turner, made a career of managing hyper-growth companies before starting the BOSTON TURNER Group. As the Chief Marketing Officer of Mercury Payment Systems, Turner tripled both the reseller channel (to over 1,200 resellers) and revenue (from $17 to $54m) and in doing so increased the value of the company from $20m to $120m according to a valuation study by CitiGroup. Turner previously led marketing for the distribution unit of Infor Global Solutions, NxTrend Technology (as part of a team that grew company valuation from $15m to $83m in four years) and an educational subsidiary of the Washington Post Company (where he raised sales closing rates from 14% to 55%). Turner is sought as a speaker for his expertise in lead generation, channel sales, and direct response marketing. He holds a B.A. in economics from California State University, San Bernardino, and is a special interest group coordinator for American Mensa, Ltd.

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Phone: 719.266.2415