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If you find yourself thrust into a leadership position—or even if you’ve volunteered for it gladly—you’ll need to consider your approach to group communication.

Every group leader wants his or her group to be successful.  How you communicate will be a big factor in determining the success of the group. 
Here are some tips for creating a group communication strategy that will feel inclusive for all the  members of your group and spark the kind of engagement that will help the group and you as a leader to be successful in achieving any objective.

Decide on your leadership approach.  There are many ways to lead. If you’re managing a business project, for example, and the project is very urgent, your leadership style will convey that.  You might need to be more directive or hold people more accountable.  If you’re volunteering in a less demanding role, you might choose a friendly “we’re all in this together” approach.  Leading a community initiative might need a combination of urgency, accountability and a sense of collaborative leadership. 

How should you determine your leadership approach?  Consider the following:

The Group Makeup

  1. Do these people report to me? If they do, your team is used to the way you manage, and will expect the same sorts of communication from you that they’ve gotten in the past.  It would be helpful for you to consider if your communication style to this point has been beneficial to your leadership.  A review of your own communication style is never a bad idea, and may yield some insights in how to motivate, engage and enlist your team in producing better results. In the case of managing a group that doesn’t directly report to you, a softer hand will likely yield better results. For example, if you’re leading a church Easter decorating committee, your leadership approach will be about fun, camaraderie and celebrating together. 
  2. Are we all employees of the same organization, or volunteers across a variety of organizations? Inside your organization, certain communication protocols and expectations have been set.  When working in a cross-organization collaboration, it’s best to establish communication etiquette mutually, based on respect.  They, like you, are in the group to achieve mutual goals.  Begin early with a conversation about the communication expectations of all parties, and as a group establish the communication ground rules that everyone in the group will buy into and accept.
  3. Am I leading a group of parents/students?  You, lucky leader, have two audiences.  You need to communicate with the students in one way, using communication tools that they actually respond to, and you need to communicate with the parents in another way, and with tools that they actually respond to.  These are going to be two very different propositions!  The most important question to consider if whether you have the tools to communicate with both of your audiences in a powerful way that won’t take up half your life.  You have a job, a family, and other obligations. How can you maximize your effectiveness and minimize your time doing it?
  4. Is my group made up volunteers from various walks of life with the goal of giving back?  This might be a church group with a mission of feeding the hungry.  It might mean a local chapter of a women’s nonprofit organization formed to raise money for educational scholarships.  Whatever the group’s purpose, what you can be assured of is that the members are invested. That’s a huge hurdle already overcome.  The most likely challenges you might face in this scenario is that your volunteers don’t communicate on the same channels.  Some might want a phone call.  Some might want a text message.  Some might want an email.  Some may want all at once to make sure they really know what’s going on! This is true of other group compositions, but most likely to be an important consideration in this kind of group.

How to Communicate – Message Content

Think through your messaging in advance to maximize group engagement.

  • What is your main goal with each communication?  Encouragement?  Inspiration? Motivation?  Do you need to communicate decisions or new information? A combination of these?  By communicating not only information but an emotional element, you will keep your group more tightly engaged.    
  • What is your messaging mix?  You do need to communicate important information to your group, but you also want to excite them, compel them, and encourage them.  What should your message ratio be for each?  If you have to send out information about every game on the team’s roster, for example, how many messages do you want to send between each of those informative messages that might be more about appreciation, or fun, or pumping everybody up? Consider how your messaging mix will impact your group’s view of incoming messages, as well as how the lighter messages (We’re a team! Yay!) will help your team to welcome the more serious messages of attendance and participation.

Choose Tools That Match Your Strategy & Group Membership

  • Are members tech savvy, or not so much?  We can’t all be tech mavens, and maybe you don’t even consider yourself one.  First, pick a toolset that will match your own tech savvy.  How easy is it to use?  How much time do you think it will it save you?  Does customer support seem to really be available and willing to help? 
    Then think about your group’s ability to use technology.  Some people are always going to be most comfortable with a phone call.  Others would prefer that you not try to call them as they go about their busy day, but would be happy to listen to a voicemail when it’s convenient for them, or read a text message.  Others are firmly rooted in their email inboxes, and that will always be the best way for you to capture their attention. 
    If you have a group that might be a combination of these, then using a tool that allows you to communicate effectively and efficiently across all of those channels would be best.  We have to say here in full disclosure that CallingPost is such a tool, and we think we’re the best at the best price.  Please explore us more, if you’re not currently a customer.
  • How often do you need to communicate with the group as a whole?  You might have a very short season in which to make a difference. Or you might need to manage a project that goes on for a year or more.  What is the right amount of communication?  How many messages—by whatever channel—will inspire, versus turn the group off?  How often do you need to communicate with the group in order to be successful overall?  It’s your group, and it’s your timeline. Consider carefully what will generate the results you want and produce the utmost engagement.
  • How much time do members have to participate in the group?  Respect for everyone’s time is critical, whether this is an important project inside your organization, or a totally volunteer effort.  Does your group want to hear detailed stories, or do they want brief updates and requests?  Will they have the time to read or listen to long messages, or would shorter be best?  Sometimes even people who have little time but are well invested would love reading a long-ish email telling a story about the triumph of someone they helped, or someone who really needs support.  It really is about the personalities and life circumstances of your group members, and you may not have that much upfront time to learn that much about them.  As you think about your new or existing team, consider its members potential time constraints and priorities. Craft your messages with that in mind.
  • How much time do you have to manage the group?  We often find ourselves managing teams that go above and beyond our everyday lives, offering us leadership opportunities that we couldn’t have imagined even days before.  If we take up these mantles, we have to be realistic about how much time and effort we can contribute, but always with the goal of being successful in our leadership.  The last thing we want to do is let down our team, family or organization. 
    You are just one person, although undoubtedly powerful. If you equip yourself with the tools to help you lead and communicate efficiently and effectively, you will be able to achieve your group’s goals and maintain a life balance that serves you.
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