10 ways to humanise your business leader

We’ve all been there, at some point in our comms careers…

That moment at a company event, everything seems to be going OK, then your business leader steps onto the stage and does something only business leaders can.

Something that ostracises them from the rest of the room. Something that makes them appear completely inhuman.

Sound familiar?

Nick TerryI’m going to hand you over to Nick Terry, MD of Top Banana, who are specialists in leadership driven events.

He’s here to offer advice on ‘humanising leaders’ and has 10 tips to share. Nick is also calling on IC pros to answer a short survey as part of some research Top Banana is conducting on this topic.

I encourage you to complete the survey. There are only seven questions and I’ll share the results once the study is completed.

Over to you Nick…

How to make your business leader look more human

Does the above scenario ring true for you? When it happens, in the absence of being able to publicly put our heads in our hands, we just die inside a little bit, wondering what, if anything we could have done to prevent this happening.

But why does it happen? And what can we, as IC pros, do to prevent it?

Let’s rewind a little.

In a survey we ran a while back, 52% of Internal Communication professionals told us that their business leader (i.e. CEO/ Managing Director) still chooses PowerPoint as their main communication tool at live events.

We also found 53% feel that the ‘fear of presenting’ is a significant barrier for their business leader.

In a world where there’s more pressure than ever on those right at the top of business to communicate with credibility, authenticity and believability, helping them appear more human is critical.

As IC professionals, what can we do to humanise our business leaders and help them make the biggest possible impact?

No matter how much a comms team breaks its back to pull off an incredible employee event, a leader stepping up and letting the side down in a ‘live’ situation will always devalue the message and the eagle will not be landed.

So it’s back to the question…

What, as IC pros, can we do to humanise our business leaders both at events, and in wider organisational culture, to help them make the biggest impact they can?

Ten ways to humanise your business leader

A few weeks ago we were at the Institute of Internal Communication’s annual conference, IOIC Live.

We were talking about this issue and galvanising ideas – here’s what made it on to our ideas board from the IC community at the event. It’s 10 ways to humanise your business leader:

  1. Get personal – encourage your leader to include a little about themselves in their presentations through storytelling, experiences and anecdotes to help people connect with them
  1. Cut the jargon – help your leader to cut the corporate speak and talk like a normal person.
  1. Lighten up – laughter is one of the most natural dispositions a person can take, so help your leader to both laugh and make others laugh as part of his presentations.
  1. Morning ritual – encourage your leader to spend five minutes at the start of each day saying good morning to those who are in, asking how they are and enquiring about key activities that day. This can be really powerful at events too.
  1. Know names – nothing is more personal than someone knowing your name. Help your leader to know names wherever possible.
  1. Random drop ins – suggest your leader drops into a different site/ team/ operation every week to say hello, boost morale (can take doughnuts!) and have an on the spot Q and A session about what’s on people’s minds.
  1. Be accessible – different platforms will work for different leaders but monthly vodcasts, townhalls, dial-ins all work well to keep leaders accessible and off the destructive plinth! Plenty of time for open Q&As at events is critical.
  1. Get involved – attendance at fundraisers, baking a cake for a charity sale, dress down Friday – whatever’s going on in the company should be going on for the CEO too.
  1. Open door or open plan – more and more leaders are giving up the office in favour of a total open plan working policy. If this is a stretch too far, an open door policy is a good second best.
  1. Be human – if someone is poorly, has lost a relative, is facing any other challenging personal situation, ensure your business leader contacts them directly with an appropriate gesture.Nothing is more personal than someone knowing your name

What do you think?
Top bananaTop Banana is passionate about helping leaders communicate better, and we want your views on this topic to get a better idea of how big the issue is and what best practice is out there to overcome it.

Please complete our short anonymous survey and tell us what is happening at your organisation to humanise your business leaders.

All we need is your answers to these simple questions. Your responses will be completely anonymous.

We’ll be publishing a report with the results, so watch this space!

Post author: Nick Terry.

Thank you Nick. What’s your experience? It’s worth noting not all business leaders are tricky to work with!

How do you work with yours? You’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

Want to learn more about internal communication?
See the Free Stuff page, sign up for an All Things IC Masterclass and check out my internal communication glossary.


First published on the All Things IC blog 13 June 2016.


  1. Geoff Timblick says:

    I agree with all these points Nick…and would like to add an 11th…listen…and do something about it. A way to create true connections with people (rather than just visibility) is to listen to them and show you have listened. Asking a provocative question that gets people thinking about solutions or issues and sharing their thoughts, is a great opportunity for leaders to make a change that resonates with people and shows their voice counts. Thoughts?

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