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Why Visible Felt Leadership should be a TOP priority in your organisation

Why Visible Felt Leadership should be a TOP priority in your organisation
26th September 2018 handh
Visible felt leadership 01

Leaders today can’t afford to not be Visible and Felt in their organisations. We break down this critical concept – exploring exactly what it means to be Visible and Felt – and offer some advice to help you achieve it!

Picture this: you’ve reached an exhilarating turning point in your career, and are about to start an exciting new role at a fresh organisation. 

You’re motivated, enthusiastic, and maybe perhaps a wee bit nervous. You’ve brushed yourself up on the company’s values, purpose and mission. And you just know you’re going to fit right in with the culture.

You arrive bright and early on your first day, champing at the bit to get going and learn more about this awesome organisation you’re now a part of. But there’s no CEO to welcome you to the fold. In fact, the CEO fails to show up at all.

You shrug it off and think nothing of it – after all, it’s only your first day. But before long, your first week goes by. Then your first month. Then your first three months. By the time your probationary period is up, the CEO is still nowhere to be seen.

You feel your motivation taking an unsettling dip. The organisational purpose you felt so connected to when you started now seems like a bunch of meaningless words, strung together with no real substance. And you start to wonder why you should go above and beyond in your role – when your senior leader doesn’t seem to care about returning the favour.

Have you ever encountered a situation like this during your career?

Why Visible Felt Leadership matters to employee engagement

Ignoring meaningful interaction with the bottom line can seem disingenuous and imply an exclusively results-focused mentality

As the figureheads of organisations, it’s critical that senior leaders practice Visible Felt Leadership.

Visible Felt Leadership is a key component of the employee engagement equation – being present for the bottom line, while also building a connection that resonates and inspires them to perform to their best.

And it’s now more important than ever. Recent research has revealed an emerging trend towards senior leaders having more influence and impact on employee engagement than direct line managers.

In fact, belief in senior leadership is one of the strongest engagement drivers. And amid the widespread political and economic uncertainty that’s casting a shadowy shroud over the future, employees are increasingly looking to their leaders to provide robust direction and support.

Read more: The top 7 internal communications challenges you need to focus on in 2018

This begs the question – can any leader really expect to accomplish all this, without being Visible and Felt?

Why Visible Felt Leadership matters to your organisation

The simple answer is, leadership is everything. 

Visible Felt Leadership is the art of being present for the bottom line, whilst building a connection that resonates and inspires them to perform to their best

Think about it – corporate narratives; company culture; internal comms; the employee experience. Senior leaders ultimately have some responsibility for all of these, and they’re all critical cornerstones of employee engagement.

But here’s the rub – they can all technically be achieved behind closed doors.

Being Visible and Felt is the icing on the cake that helps you connect with employees, sustain an inspiring presence, and create an exciting experience that discourages employees from jumping ship.

With a healthy sprinkling of authenticity, transparency, and trust.

Here are just some of the benefits of Visible Felt Leadership:

•    It builds credibility
•    It demonstrates commitment and respect
•    It’s inspirational and engaging
•    It helps you lead by example and embed the culture
•    It can open up constructive conversations
•    It enables you to learn more about the business

So what are the qualities of Visible Felt Leaders?

To better understand what being Visible and Felt is all about and the impact it can have on employees, it’s useful to think of it as though you’re at the cinema, watching a film.

"Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just as an employee – are more productive, satisfied, and fulfilled” – Anne M. Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox

On the one hand, you’re aware of what’s going on on-screen. You understand the story, and can follow the plot without issue.

But ask yourself – are you actually invested in what’s happening? Are you on the edge of your seat, gripping the armrests as you erupt with excitement and your knuckles turn sheet-white? Are you already counting down the minutes until it’s released on Netflix, so you can expend countless hours watching it all over again?

That’s the director’s second – and arguably most important – job. To ensure you don’t leave the screening having barely scratched the surface of your popcorn, they have to engage you beyond just the visuals.

Connecting you with the characters, story, and drama on a deeper, emotional level, to keep you hooked throughout the film.

In other words, you have to feel with what’s happening in front of you.

So let’s think about this through a leadership and management lens (if you’ll pardon the pun!).

Qualities of Visible Leaders

Visible leaders are just that – visible. 

They’re present, reachable, and easily approachable. They talk to employees, sharing the numbers and imparting news and updates through comms channels or face-to-face meetings.

Visible leaders talk to employees, sharing the numbers and imparting news and updates through comms channels or face-to-face meetings

In fact, more than 50% of employees say that when leaders share company information, it has a significant positive impact on their motivation and productivity. And over 90% of employees believe bad news is better than no news.

Visible leaders also make an active effort to visit their employees at the coalface, learning about the challenges and issues they face and getting a flavour for how the business operates outside their office.

And they lead by example, demonstrating the values, attitudes and behaviours they want their employees to emulate.

They create a tangible connection from the bottom line, right up to the C-Suite. 

When people have regular sight of senior management, they feel supported and respected. Picture a locational, horizontal connection – between leader and employee.

But does just being Visible mean employees will invest in your vision, and pour their (hopefully figurative) blood, sweat and tears into bringing it to life?

Creating real engagement requires a Felt approach to leadership too.

Qualities of Felt Leaders

Felt leaders forge intangible connections with employees, engaging with them more deeply and impactfully to ignite their emotions and inspire their minds.

Felt leaders:

Share a compelling vision of the future, and make employees’ roles in achieving it clear.

Break down barriers by facilitating two-way conversations rather than imposing one-way monologues.

Demonstrate humility and authenticity by recognising and appreciating hard effort and achievement.

And empathise with employees, supporting them through challenging times and offering heartfelt help and encouragement.

Being Visible and Felt is the icing on the cake that helps you connect with employees, sustain an inspiring presence, and create an exciting employee experienceThis last one is super important – it add the human touch, and demonstrates that you care about your employees beyond the spreadsheet figures they create.

And the numbers prove it: as many as 91% of employees feel motivated to do their best when they have leadership support.

Isn’t this something which leaders everywhere dream of making a reality?

To put Felt leadership into context, this time picture an emotional, vertical connection – from the employee’s heart to their head. They feel the organisation’s purpose, understand their role in achieving it, and are motivated to succeed.

It’s easy to be Visible without necessarily being inspiring or engaging. Being a Visible and Felt leader completes this equation, creating meaning through open, authentic interaction. 

Visible Felt Leadership in action

We think one of the best examples of the positive impact of Visible Felt Leadership comes courtesy of veteran entrepreneur Bill Grimsey, when he took over the management of troubled DIY chain Wickes back in 1996.

Fraudulent accounting activity had sent the company hurtling towards the precipice of certain collapse. To set about reversing the business’s dwindling fortunes – and conscious that he was an unfamiliar face intervening during a time of rife uncertainty – Bill focused on maximising his own presence within the organisation.

He didn’t stick to the comforts of his own office; nor did he choose to attempt to resolve the issue all off his own back and leave his employees in the dark.

He went out and about on shop floors, talking with employees about their concerns and experiences, and spent whole weeks at different branches – even hosting breakfasts conversations with the people working to keep them afloat (sounds like a great perk if you ask us!).

All with impeccable results. Bill’s leadership reinvigorated the company and shrugged off the shackles of the scandal, to the point where it was profitable enough to be bought by Focus-Do-It-All less than 4 years later.

We equipped the organisation’s leaders to communicate the new vision and facilitate conversations with their teams, to hammer home its importance to the business’s future

We’ve had experience of developing Visible Felt leaders ourselves too. One of our best case studies – which you can check out below – is when we worked with Crown to articulate and communicate their revised vision of a more efficient, streamlined future.

We prepared and equipped the organisation’s leaders to communicate the new vision and strategy and facilitate meaningful conversations around it with their teams, to hammer home its importance to the future success of the business.

The core of this leadership session was built around a ‘conversation pack’ we created, which was later used by managers during the wider roll-out.

And when asked how clear and inspiring they found the new strategy and the communications cascaded about it, Crown employees scored high eights, nines and tens across the board – results which don’t need an explanation!

Uniting a global business under one vision

Leadership Development case study by H&H, featuring Crown Worldwide
Crown Worldwide came to us for help in uniting all their global operations under one unique vision, to reduce complexity and streamline their business. And in true H&H fashion, we couldn’t say no! Learn more about our innovative approach by giving our Case Study a gander.

3 strategies to help you be a more Visible and Felt leader

So how can you put this into practice yourself?

Here are 3 tips handpicked by us to help you become a more Visible and Felt leader:

Act like an employee

Get out and about, engage with the bottom line, and take time to assess issues and problems you may have missed. Spend time in different departments or in different shops or offices, talking to as many of your people as possible to paint a comprehensive picture of the state of your organisation. Your employees are the most important part of your business – so give them the attention and support they need and deserve.

Your employees are the most important part of your business – so give them the attention and support they need and deserve

Care about conversations

Talk with your employees – not just at them. One-way communication is fine when you’re conveying information, but it quickly becomes stale and unengaging. Most employees will jump at the opportunity to share their suggestions and ideas about the business. You never know – you may end up lifting the lid on a unique, imaginative perspective you might never have thought of yourself!

Get up-close and personal

At the end of the day, your employees are people, with their own interests, hobbies, and lives outside the workplace. Leaders who care about their employees beyond spreadsheet figures take an active interest in learning more about their external lives, and offer help or advice if they’re experiencing personal issues. Organising social events (beyond the old-hat Christmas party) is a great way to build a stronger connection with them and at the same time, show off your own fun side. After all – why can’t you enjoy a little light activity with employees too?

Read more: Let’s get personal: 5 ways senior leaders can become more visible (and how internal comms professionals can help)

The latest Edelman Trust barometer shows that building trust is currently the number-one priority for CEOs around the world.

And since this is the case, today’s leaders can’t afford to not be Visible and Felt.

The key lies in making a more conscious effort to be present around the organisation, and paying more attention to how you can create an inspiring environment and story for your employees to be a part of.

And remembering that when it comes to Visible Felt Leadership – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

If you enjoyed this…

…download our ‘Manager & Senior Leadership Engagement: Why It Matters’ IC Field Guide to learn more about why being a Visible Felt leader is imperative to organisational success.

Get your FREE copy here.

Got an idea of your own you’d like to share?

If you’re an internal comms/employee engagement expert and you’d like to feature on our blog,  get in touch and our team will pick up your request!