Here at Guru HQ, we are big champions of a meaningful end-of-year message. The value for employees of hearing from their most senior leader(s) is easily, and all-too-often, underestimated. Even if the year has been a tough one for your organisation (and it has been a tough one for many!) and even if the outlook is uncertain or less rosy than you’d like, we still believe that sharing an honest, reflective, balanced, and empathetic message is the right thing to do.
We know that (perceived) poor communication from the top is a key factor in damaged trust in leadership. And that is something to be avoided at all costs.
If you haven’t yet finalised your end-of-year messaging, here are a lucky seven tips from us on getting it right.
1. Be transparent
If things haven’t been great this year, your people will already know this. Trying to put too much positive spin on a challenging 12 months will come across as either insincere or delusional. If operations have been trimmed and/or colleagues have lost their jobs, it can even be insulting.
Of course, the wins should be celebrated (as per our next point) but these should not be the only part of your message if they were not the only part of your story. Be transparent, be honest, and save yourself the hideous task of trying to rewrite your recent history to suit a false narrative. Your message will go further and be much better received if it acknowledges the challenges that you have been through or continue to face. After all, dealing with the challenges, along with any mistakes or failures, shows your adaptability and resilience.
2. Shout about the good stuff
You will absolutely have some positives to shout about, no matter how tough the year. If they’re not immediately obvious, look harder! Or, better still, involve your other leaders and managers to mine for the nuggets of motivational gold. Acknowledging and celebrating the wins, the team efforts, the positive customer feedback, the peer-to-peer recognitions, the problems solved, and the anniversaries will motivate and invigorate. Focus the narrative around the wins on the people involved, the people at every level where possible, to show your employees how valuable -and valued- they are, and remind them of how they contribute to the overall success of the business. A sense of belonging and a self of worth are hugely valuable to our workers in the 2020s.
Focus the narrative around any wins on the people involved to show your employees how valuable -and valued- they are.
3. Show empathy
I’ve written a few times about how leaders do not need to be devoid of emotion and oblivious to struggle to appear strong and in control. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. The cold stiff upper-lip approach is as dated and unwelcome as it sounds. Leading and communicating with some vulnerability and plenty of emotional honesty and empathy can be incredibly powerful, especially when the message is a mixed bag of good and less-good news.
4. Show your face
Nothing will convey your empathy, your understanding, your sincerity, and your authenticity like showing your face. This is where a short video message can run rings around even a brilliantly composed written message. You’ll want to script it carefully, sure, but provided you believe in the words and the sentiment (and you don’t read it AI-chat-bot-style!), it will be a lot easier and a lot more impactful to share your words with the pacing, intonation, facial expressions, and body language that the written word doesn’t allow.
5. Show your gratitude
You may have already done this as part of point 2, but it can be all-too-easy to forget to actually thank people when you’re focusing so hard on what key messages you need to deliver and how. If you know it’s been a tough year for people, thank them for their service, their loyalty, their hard work, and their dedication. Depending on the size and shape of your organisation, you might want to thank some individuals as well as wider teams or departments. Thank those who have made specific contributions, shown unique skills, or really gone the extra mile for the business. Remember that not all contributions are intellectual or result directly in traditionally measured outcomes.
6. Look forward
We’re going to look at what to include in your start-of-the-year messaging in our next blog, and that message is likely to switch the emphasis around from what has gone to what is coming, but it would be remiss not to touch upon the vision, goals, objectives, priorities and opportunities of 2024 in your end-of year message. Again, this is an ideal opportunity to reiterate and reinforce the team’s importance in achieving these objectives moving forward.
7. Offer your warm wishes
And finally, of course, please close your message with a warm and sincere wish for the holidays and the new year, expressing hope for continued success and growth as well as health and happiness. If you have a very diverse workforce, personalise the greeting carefully so as not to offend. “Happy holidays” is the safest bet, and neatly covers all end-of-year religious celebrations, but there is no harm in offering a “Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it” (or similar) as well.
We’ve got two more blogs to share before we break up for our Christmas hols, including the natural sequel to this one on how to compose your start-of-year messaging, but if you’re lucky enough to be finishing early and we don’t see you again until 2024, have a wonderful break, whatever and however you’re celebrating, and we wish you a very happy, healthy and successful new year.