As an organization grows, it can be difficult to communicate key principles and other important information as a leader. The reality is that organizational hierarchy can feel a bit like the game of telephone, leading to miscommunication and misalignment.
In an effort to reduce miscommunication, many leaders will hold in-person town-hall style meetings, where the entire company gets in a room and receives an update in a lecture-style format.
While this is useful, it can be unrealistic to run these meetings as frequently as they should happen. Communicating a message once per month is better than nothing, but you should expect limited results due to the infrequency of the event. In-person meetings are also expensive from a time-cost perspective, so it may be unrealistic to do these in-person events on a weekly basis.
Fortunately, there's a better way to complement a monthly all-hands meeting, and it's called the weekly CEO update. We'll show you why it matters and how it works below.
Why send the weekly CEO update?
As the leader, you are responsible for steering the ship. As you already know, a massive boat can be turned by a tiny rudder - the same is true with what you say, how you behave, and what you prioritize. You have a ton of leverage at work.
Your team on the front-line can't read your mind. If you want people to care about the things you care about, you need to communicate it.
A written update is more efficient than a meeting
As mentioned in the previous section, holding a weekly all-hands meeting (especially as you grow), can become impossible, but instead of making the event less frequent, you need to find a more efficient way. The best way to do this is by composing a written update.
A written update isn't as "rich" as a meeting, but the advantage is that you can be more thoughtful when writing. It's also not as costly as people can read it when they have a few minutes.
The CEO update provides historical context
Another advantage is that these written updates can be referenced over time, which helps build a library of updates that provides valuable context to new hires. Would you prefer a new employee onboard and gather a high-level overview of what has happened over the past year, or would you prefer they spend the next few months to try to learn it?
As a leader, it's also a fun experience to look back over time and see how far you've come.
p.s. - you should still have a monthly all-hands meeting, as it's still important to get in front of your company.
Writing helps you connect on a more personal level
It's no secret that there's a disconnect between the front-line and leadership. How do you break down these barriers? By holding another all-hands meeting where you talk exclusively about numbers?
A written update enables you to craft a more personal message. Sure, you should still talk about numbers and performance, but you need to connect on a personal level too. You can't come across as a machine. People don't bond with machines.
Taking a minute to think and compose a message can help make you come across as a human. See how David Cancel at Drift does this with his weekly CEO email.
Logistical Considerations for the Update
If you're convinced that this update would be a valuable addition to your company, let's dive into when and where the update should be sent.
When should the update be sent?
As the article implies, this should be a weekly update. Consider sending the update early Monday morning as people show up to work. It's a great way to set some context for the week and to get people thinking about the higher level goals of the company.
Where should the update be sent from?
The primary delivery mechanism will most likely be email. If you use Slack or Microsoft Teams, this may be another way to communicate to the rest of the group. Neither solution is perfect for the following reasons:
- Email - you are competing with the hundreds of other emails that show up in someone's inbox. It's nice to think that every employee in your company will read your update, but that may be unrealistic.
- Slack - you may face a similar problem to email. Slack can get noisy. If you have a particular channel for these type of announcements, this may be a good solution. But once again, don't expect everyone to read your update.
- Friday - we've built software for your most important workplace communication (1-1s, status updates, CEO updates, etc). It also integrates with Slack and email.
The key is to communicate the message in a way where there's the least amount of noise. This will vary depending on how your company communicates, but you need to make sure it's in a visible place.
What should the weekly CEO update have?
If your weekly CEO update is full of KPIs and numbers you care about, you should expect mediocre results. Try to answer the question, "what's in it for the reader?"
What is relevant for the employee on the front-line? What is relevant for a middle-manager?
Why should they care?
Don't get me wrong, you still should have KPIs, but it shouldn't be the primary purpose. Connect at a deeper level - that's why you should kick things off by sharing what what you are thinking about. Gokul Rajaram shares a helpful framework in this post.
The reader needs to feel like they are gaining a unique and valuable insight that can help them connect with the mission and do better work.
A sample CEO update template:
- Introduction - a summary of what they should expect to read in the rest of the update.
- What I'm thinking about - don't make this all about you. Draw the connection to the business and why people should care.
- Progress on KPIs - how are things trending? Provide context about why hitting numbers matters.
- New Hires - if you're hiring new people, this is a great chance to give a shout-out and introduce new people.
- Shine the light on people who go above and beyond - did you see epic/selfless behavior from someone at work? Mention it!
- Customer story - as a result of your company being around, how are you improving someone's life? A business exists to serve customers. Why does someone's work matter?
Every update needs this at the end...
This is our last piece of advice; every CEO update you send needs to have a question at the end.
The reasoning is simple:
- You need a feedback loop throughout the entire organization. You can't say "my office is always open" and expect people to walk in and give feedback. You need to actively ask for it.
- This can serve as a helpful proxy for engagement. If you don't see many responses, you may need to further unpack why this might be the case.
We'd also recommend individually reaching out to some people for feedback on how you can improve the update.
To get where you need to go, you need to be an effective communicator. To be an effective communicator, you need to create communication habits. The weekly CEO update is one of many tools you should have in your toolbox.