Six ways effective leaders cut through the noise

Attention: people leaders.  Do you know what a zettabyte is? If you don’t you should, because the zettabyte is competing with you and grabbing the attention of your teams.

"Are your people clear about your organisation’s story and their role in it?"
Rita Zonius, Head of Communications, ANZ Australia

Click image to zoom Tap image to zoom

Here’s the deal. It’s estimated people around the world have collectively generated around 4 zettabytes of content to date. 

In his book Breaking Banks, founder and CEO of Moven Brett King says creating four zettabytes of content every year means “every second of every day, we are generating the equivalent of 100,000 times the content of every book, magazine and newspaper ever printed up to this point in history”. 

Add to the mix our obsession with smart devices and apps that can help us do almost anything, you may wonder sometimes whether your team can hear you above all the ‘noise’.

Are your people clear about your organisation’s story and their role in it? Or does it feel like everyone’s got a different take on it all? 

The answers to these questions matter, because in a knowledge based economy, people will only go the extra mile for you if they believe they are making a difference. If you need convincing on this point, read Daniel Pink’s Drive, where he points to autonomy, mastery and purpose as being the big drivers of motivation – a great read. 

The good news for people leaders is even in a world chock-a-block with information, you still play a vital role in connecting your people to the organisation’s vision and priorities. Making a personal connection with your people is one of the best ways to do it.  

In an audit of content and communication channels at ANZ earlier this year, we asked 9,500 of our people whether they’d had the opportunity to talk in person with a member of their leadership team.  

The results were not surprising – those people who did have an opportunity to connect with a leader had a better understanding of their organisation’s strategy and their place in it.  And the more frequently these personal connections happened for people, the stronger their understanding of strategy. 

Here’s how effective leaders cut through the noise and help connect their people to the big priorities: 

  1. They make time to talk about the organisation’s story and priorities

    Staff can’t work out their place in the organisational jigsaw through osmosis. Have regular conversations with them about your organisation’s plans. This includes explaining why certain decisions have been made and answering questions that help give your people the confidence they need to take up their role in the story.

  2. They don’t take the “here’s something I prepared earlier” approach

    While your organisation’s strategic priorities won’t be up for debate, how your team contributes to them will be. Don’t cook up the team’s response to the organisation’s strategy by yourself - instil ownership by involving your team and building a local plan together. This means sharing relevant information and letting the creative juices in the team flow, otherwise your people may feel like they’re just delivering on someone else’s plan.

  3. They make time to connect face to face

    Where is your team located?  Does everyone sit outside your office?  Great – then catch up face to face. No need to send strategy updates via newsletters, videos or emails to the people you can simply look in the eyes.  If your people are dispersed far and wide, then get out from behind your desk and make time to get out and about. In all cases, choose a meeting format that will work for the size of the team you’re connecting with.

  4. But they make the most of virtual connections, too

    While face-to-face meetings are great for building understanding and rapport, it’s not always the most effective way to reach people. From hosting a live online chat to holding a video conference and using internal social collaboration tools, make the most of your organisation’s technology capabilities to connect with your team. Not a digital native? Upskill yourself by playing with new tools and ask for help if you need it. The digital natives in your team will be happy to give you a hand.

  5. They remind people how they’re making a difference – again and again

    As your team gets on with addressing big priorities, demonstrate how your people’s individual contribution is making an impact on the organisation’s story. Make this connection often, because often people can become so engrossed in what they’re doing on a daily basis they don’t take the time to join the dots themselves. Mark important strategic milestones and celebrate successes as you work towards your end goals.

  6. They do it with heart

    Mobilising people around what really matters in organisations is not all about massive powerpoint decks, project plans and spreadsheets. Put simply, it’s about you connecting with your people’s hearts and minds so they’re fully engaged in making a lasting, positive impact on your organisation. Keep it real - be an approachable and interested leader, provide guidance when needed, don’t micromanage and give your people the freedom and confidence to get on with it.

The best people leaders remember when life gets busy and it feels like the zettabytes are coming for you, connecting with your people is a first-order priority. 

The bottom line is it’s one of the most important things you can do to engage your people around what really matters in an organisation and deserves plenty of your attention.

Rita Zonius is Head of communications, ANZ Australia.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

editor's picks

17 Sep 2014

Culture takes leadership and leaders need culture

Susie Babani | Former Chief Human Resources Officer at ANZ

I’ve just returned from a visit to London, where the newspapers continue to regale with stories about financial institutions failing their stakeholders - employees, customers, shareholders, communities and regulators.

30 Sep 2014

Who’s driving your leadership?

Suzette Corr | Group General Manager Institutional Human Resources, ANZ

Years ago I had a colleague who had a plaque on her desk that read, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me”. I found it vaguely irritating and dismissed it as pop psychology.