Communication is one of the most important capabilities of a leader, regardless of industry or leadership level. The ability to communicate clearly is imperative. The recent launch of ChatGPT has revolutionized the way we write. By using generative AI tools that are designed to understand natural language inputs from humans, ChatGPT can respond conversationally to almost any question or prompt[i]. What does this mean for leadership communications?
Strong and effective leadership communications, however they are generated, create alignment, reinforce accountability, and help employees understand why the organization is moving in a certain direction. Insight Experience created the Strategic Communication Model™ to help leaders craft the most impactful communications that speak to employees. This model emphasizes the importance of:
- Content and Context: articulating a core message in clear and simple ways; explaining what is happening in the market that will affect a business; outlining how a business meets customer needs differently than the competition; aligning a team's actions to a broader strategy; and more.
- Consistency: ensuring a leader's communication is consistent with operating, investment, and organization decisions.
- Empathy and Energy: acknowledging and recognizing — in a way that personalizes the message — employees' efforts and contributions to success.
- Accountability: outlining how employees contribute to a strategy; making specific requests for actions; and linking to specific performance measures at the company level.
You can watch founding partner Amanda Young Hickman explain the model here:
How should leaders think about communication in the age of ChatGPT? How effective is it at crafting leadership communications? Let's say you're a leader who wants to write an email to all employees at a large retail organization, announcing that it has hit its annual targets. In today’s world, leaders could prompt the chatbot to craft such an email. I did just that. Here is the result:
Subject: Celebrating Our Collective Success: Achieving Annual Targets!
Dear [Company Name] Team,
I hope this email finds you all in high spirits and great excitement. It is with immense pleasure and pride that I announce the successful achievement of our annual targets for [year]! This accomplishment is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and unwavering commitment of each and every member of our incredible team.
Throughout the year, we set ambitious goals and worked relentlessly to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. With unwavering focus and a shared vision, we have not only met but exceeded our targets. This remarkable achievement reflects the strength and resilience of our organization and its exceptional employees.
Together, we have reached new heights and accomplished incredible milestones. Our sales figures have soared, customer satisfaction has been consistently outstanding, and our brand recognition has expanded. This collective success is the result of our combined efforts, the synergistic collaboration between departments, and your individual contributions, which have gone above and beyond our expectations.
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to each and every one of you for your hard work, professionalism, and dedication to excellence. Your relentless commitment to delivering exceptional customer experiences, your passion for innovation, and your ability to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing retail landscape have been instrumental in our triumph.
Our success is not only measured in numbers but also in the positive impact we have made on the lives of our customers and communities. Through our outstanding service and commitment to delivering the highest quality products, we have become a trusted partner for our customers, empowering them to lead better, more fulfilling lives.
To celebrate this significant achievement, we will be organizing a company-wide event on [date]. This will be an opportunity for us to come together, acknowledge our collective success, and express our appreciation for each other's hard work and dedication. More details about the event will be shared in the coming days.
Once again, I extend my heartfelt congratulations and gratitude to all of you. This accomplishment is a testament to our shared values, teamwork, and relentless pursuit of excellence. Let's celebrate our success and use this momentum to drive us towards even greater achievements in the future.
Thank you for being an essential part of our remarkable journey and for making [Company Name] the exceptional organization that it is today.
[Your Name] [Your Title/Position] [Company Name]
That’s not necessarily a bad piece of communication. At Insight Experience, we often use our Strategic Communication Model™ to rate leadership communications. Here is how several Insight Experience facilitators rated this AI-generated communication on a scale of one to five:
What should leaders glean from this example, particularly through the lens of our communication model?
ChatGPT enables enhanced efficiency but only creates a starting point from which to edit.
The above ChatGPT-generated response has abundant empathy and energy, and if leaders used that as their first draft and layered in edits about the company vision, strategic direction, and clear accountability, this could arguably be a strong, well-rounded communication. Sending out the email as drafted by ChatGPT would leave employees feeling energized — but not necessarily with a clear understanding of the organization’s ultimate why. Or as facilitator Jean Williams puts it: "Great empathy and energy. I want to follow you. I just don't know what we're doing."
Facilitator Amanda Young Hickman thinks the missing Content and Context is especially problematic, describing the message as a "thesaurus of buzz words" and "so over the top in empathy and energy that it undermines its intent to connect with employees. It doesn’t really say anything. What is our strategy? Who are our customers? How have we made them so happy? What is our vision? Why does our work impact our customers lives?" Facilitator Thaddeus Ward wants to know: What made these goals significant? What was the role of other teams and/or the impact this group had on other teams?
ChatGPT cannot effectively communicate accountability.
Accountability, says facilitator Chris Holliday, is altogether absent from this message. Nothing about what, going forward, will be expected of the team — or of the employee receiving the message — is included in the communication. What will be needed to sustain performance in the coming months? Accountability involves setting an example for your team and indicating how they are expected to perform. In the bulleted list above, the one that fleshes out our Strategic Communication Model™, it's no coincidence that the word "specific" appears more than once under the category of Accountability. The more specific the message is, the better. People want to know precisely how they can contribute. Without accountability set from the top, employees can feel lost. Without clear and specific definitions of what is expected, employees aren't sure what to be held accountable to.
ChatGPT will never be able to replace authentic leadership and efficiently communicate a leader’s moral code.
At Insight Experience, we talk about the Business Cycle of Leadership™, which states that the mindset leaders bring to their communication, prioritization, and time allocation creates the culture of an organization.
If that is a positive, transparent culture, then leaders will reap the benefit of employee transparency and improved employee performance. AI will never be able to replace a leader’s moral compass or ability to create a community. As Amanda puts it: "Leaders focus their organizations; they reinforce accomplishments in context for what the team and organization are trying to achieve; they connect what has happened in the past to the priorities for the future. In short, they lead."
It's also important to note that the text ChatGPT generated only focuses on written communication to an organization. As leaders, the in-the-moment communications and more formal in-person communications, such as all-hands meetings, are also critical. The affect, body language, tone, inflection, and gestures of a leader can often say so much more than words can. ChatGPT can assist with the planning of more formal communications, but at the end of day the common adage rings true: People may forget what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Take it from ChatGPT itself: I went straight to the source, asking, "How will ChatGPT affect leadership communications?" Even the chatbot agrees with me. It knows its limitations and produced a response that noted that it is "important to note that ChatGPT is not a substitute for human interaction and leadership. While ChatGPT can provide assistance, it's up to leaders to use the tool effectively and communicate in a way that builds trust, inspires action, and fosters collaboration."