How to humanize your senior execs

Front-line employees often feel disconnected from the C-suite but there’s an effective way to break down barriers, says one expert.

How to humanize your senior execs
nt-line employees often feel disconnected from C-suite execs but there is an effective way to break down barriers while also communicating the vision of senior leaders, says one expert.

“Most people that are working in companies don't understand the leader's vision,” says Vern Oakley, veteran filmmaker and CEO of Tribe Pictures.

“Can you imagine if everyone understood where the company is going? What the company’s strategy is? That would be incredible.”

According to Oakley, the most effective way of communicating that vision is via video and he claims the method will drive engagement right across the organization.

US-based Oakley – who recently penned Leadership in Focus: Bringing Out Your Best on Camera – suggests putting senior leaders in front of the camera to talk about their vision and personal passion for the company.

“Vulnerability is attractive to people,” says Oakley. “When you express that you're human, that you're trying to achieve something together, that you need the help of other people to achieve this, that we can all create something great, you're showing yourself to be a servant leader and that's really the new form of leadership that's helping to drive the best companies in the world today.”

While it might sound straight-forward, Oakley says there are plenty of organizations that give video a shot but slightly miss the mark.

“They can [break down barriers] if they're well done but not many of them are well done,” he says. “In terms of having a leader, a top executive communicating to people, if they're reading off a teleprompter, that pushes you into the part of the brain that is very, very different than the kind of conversational authentic tone that people really relate to.”

 Instead of a pre-scripted and perfectly composed speech, Oakley says HR should encourage the senior leaders to be genuine – “Tell an authentic story,” he urges. “That's much more engaging.”

While video can be utilized to connect the front-line with senior execs and communicate important messages, Oakley says it can also be used to strengthen company culture and organizational values.

“In terms of creating a culture that's transparent, engaging, and exciting, video is a great tool to tell the kind of stories that you want to be told, to reinforce the values that are important to you, to get the leader's vision out,” says Oakley.

“If you can tell a story that really resonates about your founder or about a key employee or a contribution that somebody made in terms of helping a homeless centre or community centre, that your company supported, people really get engaged,” he continues.

“When you think about it if you can get authentic voice, real moments, exceptional performance, heroic efforts from an employee and hold them up – people can relate to that.”

However, Oakley warns that HR should avoiding putting an individual employee on a pedestal and should focus instead on their exemplar behaviour.

“We have to be aware not to take a particular employee a hero, but a particular employee that has done something special is an example of the kind of heroic behaviour the company wants,” he says. “That's a very subtle and important distinction that makes something really strategic.”

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