Leaders need to catch up to communication technology and extend their power and influence through digital channels. Or so says Charlene Li, Founder and CEO of Altimeter Group and recent author of “The Engaged Leader: A Strategy for your Digital Transformation”.

Last week, at Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit, we chatted with this sought-after thought leader to discuss the opportunities she’s seeing for leaders in this digital world (see the video below!), a world that has grown far beyond the face-to-face, handshake interactions so many leaders are used to.

Today, Charlene says that leaders need to be able to check in, manage, and inspire across different channels, different time zones, and different geographies. And do so at scale. Which means that leaders need to learn not only how to embrace these new communication tools, but thrive with them.

“Blindly choosing not to engage your employees through online channels is the equivalent to ignoring your customers when they’re knocking on your door.” – Charlene Li, Co-founder & CEO, Altimeter Group

Maybe it seems a bit surprising that this still lies as an untapped opportunity for many leaders given that the transition to digitally-driven communications started so many years ago. But as Charlene explains, most leaders today just aren’t comfortable with diving head first into a transparent world of scalable, pervasive conversations. And even though leaders’ organizations are actively exploring this path of communication with their customers, many leaders are still “sitting on the sidelines, hoping no one notices”.

Overcoming the Obstacles for Digital Adoption in Leaders

From Charlene’s research, she’s uncovered four main reasons why leaders are hesitant to adopt a full-fledged, personal digital communication strategy:

  1. Constraints on time
  2. Indecision on ideal messaging and key talking points
  3. What can and cannot be said from a legal perspective
  4. Fear, the basic response that sets in when anyone considers being more public themselves.

But, if leaders can overcome these barriers (and Charlene gives explicit tips for this in her book), they are sure to realise stronger relationships and a more engaged and cohesive employee base. And according to her, leaders can do this with video.

Using Video to go from Theory to Practice

Charlene explains why video is a promising opportunity for leaders:

Video just makes sense because it’s easily accessible, it’s a preferred medium for consumption, and it’s an emotive and persuasive platform.

In addition, leaders can overcome those barriers to adoption that we listed earlier with the help of video:

  1. Time: Today, video is simple to create. You can capture a quick note to say hi on your smartphone and send it via email or produce a more professional, fine-tuned company-wide message in your office studio. You might even go so far as to conduct video calls more frequently than phone calls. When you can make eye contact, even from miles and miles away through a computer screen, it’s phenomenally more engaging than a voice-only conversation. And if you still don’t think there’s enough time, just consider this: saying you don’t have the time to communicate with your employees to inspire, motivate, and align effectively says they’re not important. Are your employees important?
  2. Messaging: Even marketing teams who spend their days honing their messaging struggle with it. As a leader, this is a crucial component to yourself and your brand as a whole, regardless of whether you’re digitally lit up or not. When you’re meeting someone face-to-face, you still need to fundamentally understand the crux of your personal and company messaging. As for video, we suggest starting with your high-level key messages, and then breaking these down into sub-topics that can act as short, consumable bites of information. Plan your message out in its entirety and then deliver it piece by piece.
  3. Legal Constraints: If you’re serious about adopting a digital transformation, sit down with your legal team ahead of time to set some ground rules. You can’t have them (or your legal subconscious) holding you back. You’ll need the flexibility to create on the fly: record a video message when you get off the plan or sent out a team message after some unsettling news comes through. So set out the rules ahead of time and just go for it! (And hey, if you’re still hesitant, Charlene recommends starting by just listening!)
  4. Fear: At the end of the day, Charlene explains, “digital transformation comes down to relationships”. Think about your video content in the same light as a face-to-face check in. It’s first and foremost about the people you’re speaking to and you, a real and genuine person! Video is simply a new way to fuel these relationships and a method of communication tailored to the digitally-savvy employee.

So give it a go and just remember this: your organization wants to hear from you!

“You’re the leader – what you say really matters to what people are doing at your organization.”

Kimbe MacMaster