• Thursday, July 18, 2024
businessday logo


Engaging diverse stakeholders effectively in complex times

Untitled design

Ambassador Charles Crawford is an Oxford and Harvard-trained British Diplomat. He is the winner of the equivalent of two Oscars and a former British Ambassador to Bosnia and Poland. He has inspired thousands of leaders globally on how to win when engaging diverse stakeholders. He will be among the four faculty members delivering the TEXEM hybrid programme’ Effective Leadership In a Distributed World: Pioneering Enduring Legacies’. Other faculty members include Sir James Duddridge, MP, Professor Roger Delves and Professor Paul Griffith (the World’s first Professor of Management to lead a team to launch a rocket into space). In this interview, Charles Crawford shares insights on how leaders can engage stakeholders more effectively in these volatile times.

How can effective communication strategies, as taught in the programme, address the unique challenges of leading in a distributed world, particularly in diverse cultural contexts like Nigeria?

Maybe the first challenge of leadership is to strike just the right balance between General and Particular, Strategy and Tactics, Big Picture and Detail. Smart leaders see Height and Breadth – smart followers see Depth.

The second challenge of leadership is learning to understand the first challenge.

TEXEM courses help you do that. TEXEM shows you how to identify and articulate strategic objectives, such as leading transformation successfully in volatile times. Then, they draw on vivid case studies to explain how, in fact, to take them forward. TEXEM programmes leverage an impressive methodology that deploys various tools, making solutions to well-researched and topical leadership issues very actionable.

During this forthcoming TEXEM programme on effective leadership in a distributed world, we will challenge assumptions on How exactly do you lead a meeting well? How exactly do you motivate your team and other diverse stakeholders well? How exactly do you give bad news? How exactly do you organise and do well in a tough negotiation? How do you build resilience and a culture of innovation to win despite many challenges?

The core idea is simple: Go Deeper…

What practical tips can executives take away to enhance their communication skills and maximise their impact in multinational settings?

Plenty of tips. A core idea is knowing how to make everything BIG. Your ideas, your delivery of them, your audience and your events.

Part of that is all about finding just the right tone. This tone has to be conveyed by speeches or interviews given by corporate leaders and supported by just the right sort of messages and interaction on social media.

This requires careful thought about what EXACTLY you want to say and where you want the emphasis of your message to fall. Do you want to be reassuring – but realistic? Or realistic – but reassuring? All very subtle, the more so in national, regional and global contexts where deep cultural norms and expectations might not be obvious. No easy answers, but executives need to to think about the smart questions. Being very deliberate on how you engage diverse stakeholders could stimulate better motivation of internal stakeholders, encourage buy-in of external stakeholders and could be a source of competitive advantage in these complex times.

Given the rapid pace of technological advancement, how can leaders ensure that their communication strategies remain relevant and impactful in a constantly evolving digital landscape, especially in emerging economies like Nigeria?

This is a challenging task – technology is galloping ahead far faster than we puny humans can keep up!

But at least leaders can aim at being consistent and (as far as possible) transparent in what they say and do. That requires consistency of message, consistency of tone and a personalised communication. It also requires segmenting your communication to countenance differences in demography- for example for younger audiences social media might be great platforms while for older ones TV and newspaper might be more apposite-So while communicating you have to consider a mix and how to deploy technology to enhance the effectiveness of the message. Hence, leaders can ensure consistent messaging, maximise their reach, and inspire diverse stakeholders more effectively in Nigeria’s digital ecosystem by embracing omnichannel communication, including a blend of social media, email, mobile apps, and traditional media. It also means understanding how the Internet and AI work and what challenges (‘deepfakes’ and so on) are coming fast. It also requires listening by monitoring and then adapting feedback.

Can you provide examples of successful communication strategies used in diverse environments, and how can executives translate these strategies into tangible results within their organisations?

One good deep question that always needs internal and external answering is: What business are we really in these days? Constant difficulties can compel a much-needed tough-love reorganisation and re-focus that looks at opportunities, customer service and stakeholder value in quite different (and much better) ways.

Likewise, have a searching look at what the organisation really does well and what it does not do so well. Honesty again. Cut out the not-so-good things and put more effort into the really good things. To learn more on how to translate strategies into meaningful results, attend TEXEM’s forthcoming Effective Leadership in a Distributed World. Leaders who attend the TEXEM programme will become better strategic leaders. Better strategic leadership could lead to better market penetration and brand awareness, improved customer engagement and loyalty, more effective communication of value propositions and differentiation, optimised risk mitigation and adaptability credentials, and enhanced ability to harness global opportunities.

Finally, one vital piece of practical communication technique: SLOW DOWN. Give yourself time to think about what you’re doing as you go along and to adjust if things are not on track. But you also have to know what track you want to be on. That means you need a test of success and failure before hosting a meeting or giving a speech and engaging diverse stakeholders (e.g. customers, regulators, members of the union and your suppliers). If you don’t know what success looks like, don’t start the meeting or give the speech! In this day and age of myriad challenges of heightened geopolitical risks, depressed manufacturing, increasingly high inflation and cost of living crises, the ability of leaders to inspire resilience, engage with stakeholders effectively and achieve profitable growth could be a source of attaining sustainable competitive advantage. Leaders who attend TEXEM’s forthcoming programme on Effective Leadership in a Distributed World will glean actionable strategic insights to make better decisions, inspire innovative practices, and position their organisation for success and win.