Authenticity Internal Communication Leader communication

Spotlight on Leadership Communications | Conversation with Sia Papageorgiou

Welcome to the 3rd episode of Intraskope’s Spotlight Series featuring Sia Papageorgiou.

How do leaders be more effective with communications? What recommendations can communicators give leaders on getting stronger with communications?

Sia Papageorgiou is a communications consultant and trainer who helps professionals become trusted, sought after and strategic advisors. In this interview she talks of the importance of leadership communication, why leaders must show up, engage more and tap the power of communication to drive change and improve belongingness.

Sia discusses the importance of leadership communications and why organizations must invest in honing the communication skills and capabilities of their leaders.

Everything we do in the communication space, has an effect ultimately on the bottom line of the organization and that creates alignment. We know that is what the organizations want to achieve. To have employees who know why they work there, know where the organization’s headed and feel a sense of belonging”, says Sia

About Intraskope’s Spotlight Series

In this series I interview key thought leaders on topics interrelated with internal communications such as culture, crisis, change, executive presence and leadership. The goal is to help unravel why they matter, what can leaders and communicators learn from experts and how we can put insights to practice. Watch these short interviews and get better at understanding these key topics and how you engage with internal communications.


  1. What is your understanding of leadership communications? Why is it important and what works?

Effective leadership communication is probably the most important skill for a leader to possess. These people drive organizational culture, strategic alignment and a sense of belonging, for the organization and the people that work in the organization. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, people don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad bosses. Leaders aren’t good at communicating, and there’s a real problem. Going to your point about research. We ran a report (called the Holmes Report back then) and found that the cost of poor communication reached something like $62 million in the US and the UK alone. That equated to around $26,000 per employee. So, having leaders that know how to communicate and can communicate well in an organization is critically important.

It’s a topic that we’ve been talking about for decades. Looking at the Gatehouse State of the Sector report that identified it as one of the top three barriers to effective internal communication. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that some leaders don’t understand that. Effective communication is even part of the role. So, we have a lot of work to do as strategic communication professionals to educate the organization to build leadership communication capacity. So that leaders and the employees that work in our organizations have a good understanding of what is good communication and what good communication means for the organization’s bottom line. Everything we do in the communication space, has an effect ultimately on the bottom line of the organization and that creates alignment. We know that is what the organizations want to achieve. To have employees who know why they work there, know where the organization’s headed and feel a sense of belonging.

2. According to a recent research, leadership is a conversation. What is the role of communications in leadership?

Communication is the biggest, the most important skill for a leader. But this is what strikes me as odd. All you must do is pick up a job description for a management position and just look at how many times the word communication features in that job description.  Yet, organizations, aren’t investing in their leaders. They’re not investing in skilling their leaders, and communication professionals have not yet mastered how to help leaders become better communicators. Good effective communication is a conversation, and you look at those who do it really well. The leaders will keep reading about in research and in articles online. They are the people who understand. It’s really important to get to know their people. It’s important to just get out there, be visible, give employees a voice, give them an opportunity to connect with the leaders of the organization. And that’s not just at the immediate manager and supervisor level – because most employees obviously will have regular access to their to their immediate manager and supervisor. Look at opportunities to close the gap between the most senior leaders in the organization and the employees who do the most important work in the organization. And every time I have done research for an organization that is where the biggest gap lies. You’d be surprised. Still how many leaders, I interview, who say to me “oh no we communicate very well in this organization”. And then you have a conversation with the frontline, and they tell me that they’re the last to find out about anything! Nobody gives them the time. Nobody says thank you for a job well done, and they get most of their information from their peers. So absolutely, it’s a conversation and absolutely it’s important.

3. How can communicators get stronger with advising leaders on communications?

Leadership communication should be number one on a communication professional’s radar. if we want to be strategic communication professionals and sit at that executive table. we must act like strategic communication professionals. We need to understand that our number one priority is building leadership communication capacity and building organizational communication capacity. First things first, I would suggest that communication professionals, create a framework for how the organization communicates through its leaders and helping those leaders communicate well. What does good communication look like in this organization, and how can we get our leaders to do that? I think we also play a role in in helping our leaders understand that communication is a key part of their role. I don’t think you’ll find any C-suite executive who doesn’t understand the bottom-line impact of effective communication. There are many leaders in an organization, and they have many skill sets.  Particularly when you’re talking about that middle layer of management, and some of those people never aspired to become leaders, and they’ve been put into these positions and they don’t know how to communicate. You can’t tell, a leader – “it’s your job to communicate”, if you don’t help them do that well. We need to be doing is looking for opportunities to train our leaders, okay. Now, obviously, recognizing that leaders are busy people, they don’t have a lot of time so making it easy for them. What support can we give them? Can we create a module on communication through an existing mechanism for them? Giving them the tools. One of the simplest interventions I did many years ago when I was working in-house was creating a simple template where I would give the messages for the business. And then they would use that as part of their meetings. A very simple format, but what it did it help them to communicate the key organizational messages in a much more consistent way. We created space for leaders to go and help themselves. We created those toolkits giving them the information they need to be able to do their job. Not just that. The role of the communication professional is to make them accountable for communication. And to reward those who do it well. So, call out those people who are great communicators in your organization.  We need to show the rest of the leadership group that this is what good communication looks like and this is what it means for the employees and the organization.

4. What are the trends you spot with leadership communications?

I want to make a point about the importance of getting the fundamentals right. Because it’s one thing to look at. So, what is a trend in this area? what is a brand new channel everyone focuses on? Or the latest thing or last piece of technology but if you haven’t got the fundamentals right. Or if your leaders don’t know that it’s their job to communicate, they don’t have the tools or they don’t have the support or they don’t have the training – or the CEO or the senior leaders don’t champion, effective communication practices, then no trend or channel or piece of technology is going to help you! But certainly, when we’re looking at what’s happened this year. Some of the examples that come to mind. The use of obviously more video. There is a lot more compassion and empathy, and care in the communication that has been shared by leaders. Those leaders who do their job well and then communicate well, are those people who can demonstrate a bit of vulnerability. One of the probably the best examples I saw from earlier this year was CEO of Marriott International, who addressed his employees all around the world through a very compelling video displayed emotion and it was a great authentic video. That’s absolutely an example. We don’t have the luxury of meeting in the organization. If that’s on Skype or on Zoom or a phone call, just meeting people where they are and maintaining that visibility in that connection, I think is really very important. Also, it’s obviously demonstrates the importance of enterprise social networks. Okay, so From a leadership perspective, it’s really important that leaders continue to interact with, with their people, get to know what concerns them and give them a voice.

5. Any anecdotes/stories of how leadership communications works well?

When you work with organizations, you get to see both the good and the bad, and the very ugly. I did some, some work with an organization here in Australia. There was an amazing communicator who would hold regular roadshows with his leadership groups and also the entire organization. And it makes the job of the communication professionals so much easier when the most senior person in the organization understands what good communication looks like. I worked many years ago for a large federal government agency. Two of my leaders, of the six really senior leaders both deputy commissioner and assistant commissioner in this organization who taught me so much about effective leadership practices and good communication and one in particular, he would travel around the country, visiting sites to conduct meetings with his senior directors. But he would always make time to go out and have a look, and meet with people. Although he had his own office, he always chose him to go out and be comfortable. And what really struck me was he never, introduced himself to people in the office as the deputy commissioner. He was always known as ‘David’ and some of the more junior staff who didn’t know who he was, had no idea that the deputy commissioner of the time is sitting right next to them. He would always take an interest. He would go into contact centre, and he would just sit next to operators and listen to the calls with them, just to get an idea about what people would ask him, and how our people were dealing with those queries. So, those types of leaders really inspire me. I just love it when I meet them and when I hear their stories, and when you speak to the employees on the other end. They are the people that create trust and engagement. It creates a sense of belonging and a sense of we’re all in the same organization, doing the same work, working towards the same goal.

6. Your advice for leaders to get better with communications

Go and speak to your communications team. I would encourage leaders to, particularly those who don’t feel so comfortable communicating – just be brave. Nobody’s expecting you to be the best presenter on the planet, or be the best writer, but they do expect you to show up. They do expect you to be visible, and they expect you to have conversations. I guarantee you you’re going to see results.

Watch the complete video interview on YouTube or read the transcript below.
Missed the earlier episodes? Watch them here: D. Mark Schumann (Culture) and Peter Yorke (Executive Presence).
 You can also look up the ongoing Intraskope’s Spotlight on Internal Communication Series featuring practitioners from around the globe sharing best practices and perspectives.

Liked the interview? Post your comments and share it with your network. 

Keen to contribute and participate in the Spotlight series? Write to me at [email protected]

Here are Internal Communications resources you can use: 

You can also visit my website and You Tube channel to know more about my work. 

#IC #leadershipcomms #conversations #authenticity #visibility #internalcomms #communications #internalcommunications #employeeexperience  #covid19 #sia #intraskope

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