What Effective Communications Teams Need From Executive Directors

Executive directors today understand the importance of effective leadership, empowerment, employee wellness and healthy company culture. The successful ones do, anyway. But, the self-actualized leader with the best of intentions for a positive employee morale can sometimes lead to an approach that is too hands-off.

“Hire right, then get out of the way.” We all know this one. It’s the mantra meant to prevent micro-managing. And, for anyone who has ever been micro-managed, it’s sure to illicit (at least an inward) “Amen!”

Yes, employees need freedom to create, fail and learn. Trust in an employee’s abilities and decision-making process is absolutely essential. That’s not all, though, executive directors. You owe your employees more than freedom.

Before retreating to your office to wait for your new communications director to provide you with your marching orders for all things public relations, branding and media, be upfront in offering these three must-haves for any successful director:

Direction. Wait, doesn’t this get into micro-managing? Didn’t you hire a director to take care of this? Yes and no. You owe your communications director the knowledge and context of where your organization is heading. The goals and strategic plan are critical here. The communications director is going to strategize and develop a plan for how her department can assist the organization in meeting its goals. Generally she is not one to define those goals (or, if she is, she’s more than your communications director).

Accessibility. Your presence and input make a difference. If you are the one who sets strategy and direction for the organization, then accessibility to you (not the C-suite member who happens to fall above communications on an organizational chart) is critically important. It keeps your public persona authentic and your messages on-point. It keeps the organization proactive rather than reactionary.

A seat at the table. When you’re discussing the future of the organization, challenges, opportunities or threats, the communications lead needs to be there. He can be either a contributing member, recognized for his knack for asking probing questions that help to clarify strategy, or a non-participating member of the leadership group. If your highest ranking communications team member is not in the room for senior leadership meetings, you’re handicapping your organization. Your communications director understands nuance, tone and context and is responsible for emanating that outward. If you think someone else in the meeting can equally convey the full story and intention to your communications director, then you’re missing the most key attribute of your communications professional.

Equip your communications director with direction, accessibility and a seat at the table then let her loose. Investing in these critical ways saves time for you and your employee (and your human resource department who wants this hire to stick!).


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