Horsing around

It’s week six in the new job and last week I spent the day taking part in an Equine Assisted Development day with my new colleagues to establish how we will work as a team. After years of attending workshops, development days and leadership coaching I would trade them all in for just one day like this – I had no expectations yet I left the day feeling slightly revolutionised.

Working with the horses as a tool to help us identify where we fit in the team, how we manage people, influence others and support each other is simply genius. But why should you do it?

You will learn more about your colleagues than you expect
How we behave with the horses and in front of each other in a situation like this is very telling. People I had interpreted as very confident showed signs of fear and anxiety and for others who are often quiet and shy their true determination to overcome obstacles shone through. Watching each other, understanding body language and how it affects the horses is a great way to draw parallels for your work life.
I found out where I fit
Being an ESTJ I know most people see me as the life and soul of a team and I have often thought of myself as someone who is very happy to lead people. What I learnt from the session was that I actually prefer being at the back of pack, keeping everyone together and supporting the leader who is out front. Understanding the herd mentality and linking that to the team – working with the horses as that team, in the physical place that you fit, demonstrated the importance of working together, communicating and for me, knowing that it didn’t matter who was in what role – what is important is that all the roles are taking an active part.
Understanding the important of your behaviours
It’s very easy to think about your own world when going through change. Change effects everyone differently but when you’re leading a team of people or in a position of leadership you need to consider how your behaviour impacts them. Working with the horses as a team and then changing formation you’re incredibly aware how sudden changes make an impact and how you need to work together as a team to make that change smooth.
The importance of personality
Working with two horses who had very different personalities meant we were able to really understand how you have to adapt your behaviour to get the right results. This isn’t anything new but actually seeing it, watching your colleagues influencing through body language alone, gives you more depth to what is often a very throw away comment. Understanding personality delved into trust, pace and confidence more than I could have imagined.
The physicality of seeing the impact of body language and learning from your colleagues while unearthing some real insight into how we individually work is invaluable. Some people might be sceptical about the parallels you can draw from such an experience but take the leap, go out of your comfort zone to find out more about yourself, but also to benefit those around you.
If you want to find out more just get in touch or you can speak to Charlotte Dennis

Why good leaders make you feel safe

When it comes to leadership there is no one I enjoy listening to more than Simon Sinek. After discovering some of his work a few years ago I have followed him since and this recent post on TED has once again sparked thoughts and ideas in my mind.

Talking about leadership and providing examples from the military he asks the question about whether certain roles attract certain types of leaders. He asks the question about where leaders that have an emotional connection with their teams comes from.

Is it about the people? The individuals? No, it is the environment they work in.

Why risk everything to save someone else? Because that person would do the same for me – it’s about trust and cooperation. But trust and cooperation are a feeling – I cannot tell you to trust me and you will.

To keep that organisation alive and safe from the ‘dangers’ outside a leader that creates an environment of trust is a leader that will create a great organisation. If an employee follows the rules because they fear for their job, it doesn’t make for a great worker and it won’t make for a successful company.

He goes on to compare leaders to parents. “We want the same for our children as we do for our employees: Opportunity, education, we discipline them when necessary all so they can grow up and achieve more than we could ourselves.”

I’d suggest anyone takes 12 minutes to watch this video. Not only to hear about the manufacturing company that had to save $10million and ended up saving $20million without making anyone redundant but also to clearly understand what leadership is. There is a big difference between being an authority and having authority over people, and being a leader and having people follow you…


What comes first… The trust in the top or the bottom?

I was having a conversation at work the other day and the topic of command and control and trust came up. We were discussing how control can imply a lack of trust in those around you and it made me wonder if the two do go hand in hand.

If I am a control freak (and some say I am!) does this mean that I don’t trust you? Does it mean that I always think you will get it wrong or just that I know how I want it?

Does the person on the end of the control feel like they are being controlled or do they feel untrusted? Is that the same thing?

Looking into this further and with the Edelman trust barometer published this week we focus a lot on the trust in those above us, those who lead us and those who govern us. But what about their trust in us?

I started reading throwing sheep in the boardroom this week (that’s another blog post) and the foreword really struck a cord….

If you were asked to open a restaurant how would you do it? You’re looking after the menu, the design, the building, everything. Now say you plan to open a steak restaurant…. You’re going to need steak knives. Your mind doesn’t then say, ah but people could use these knives to stab other customers so when I design my restaurant I’m going to put all the tables in cages.

That would be madness.

Yet this is how we have come to think about people and employees in business. If we always think they will do the worst we will design business structures, social channels and organisations around the very worst situation, not the reality. And if we do that, it shows a lack of trust in our people. So if the leaders don’t trust the people then why should the people trust the leaders?

And if everyone is thinking about the worst case scenario then they are going to want to control it and do it themselves to make sure that the bad stuff doesn’t happen…

What we need to consider is spreading that load. No one can control everything and if you show some trust then they will show it back… I just wonder who is going to make the first move….


What we can learn from Mr Selfridge

jeremy_piven_selfr_2443089bOver the past few weeks I have been catching up with the latest drama to appear on ITV; Mr Selfridge. I am big fan of the store so I’m thoroughly enjoying this series but it has also made me think about how leaders communicate, inspire and engage a workforce. Now I’m not sure how much of it is fact, but from my sofa there are a few things internal communicators and our leaders can take away…

1. Perception is reality

Every time he addresses the people, his team or any stakeholder in his business he makes sure he has the right face on. He makes sure that the team are inspired to do their jobs and he does this by putting a brave face on it, or by sticking to the party line. This doesn’t mean that I think our leaders should lie their way through communications but it does mean that I think people look to leaders for guidance and stability – they need to demonstrate a sense of control and reassurance. There is a consistency to his approach that is comforting.

2. Everything that needs to be said can be done in 15 minutes

In the episode where Mr Selfridge was out of action his team couldn’t understand how he had so many meetings in a day. His view? You can say everything that needs to be said in 15 minutes and everything else is just hot air. I love this statement as we spend more and more time in meetings (91% of people admit to day dreaming in meetings and 39% admit to falling asleep) and can often achieve very little. Quick, to the point huddles or briefings can deliver much more in terms of engagement.

3. We decide on the what and the why and you decide on the how

This is the key to engagement, and actually links to some work by John Smythe that we covered on day two of my CIPR Diploma. Mr Selfridge demonstrates just how this theory can work. They decide to do a sale to compete with a new store and encourage everyone to come in and shop – what is included in the sale is down to the heads of department – the how is up to them. This is real employee engagement and empowerment and demonstrates what can be achieved if you use the power of the teams and the experts to deliver results.

4. Get to know your people

There are several examples throughout some of the earlier episodes where he goes out on a limb for people. People he thinks have credibility and are the right cultural fit for his business. Culture if the most important thing if you want to compete in today’s market and knowing your team is the key to achieving this. It’s also a lesson for IC Pros to make sure that we are credible in our roles – if we are, our leaders will go out on a limb for us and support what we are trying to achieve.

5. Network and use external events to your advantage

Mr Selfridge is all about his network. He is meeting people all the time and using external events that interest the press to his advantage. I was surprised, upon visiting the store at the weekend, that they aren’t replicating windows from the show in real time – I thought this would be a great idea to capitalise on the programme. Use external events to hook your internal audience and always make time for networking inside and outside the organisation – you never know when you need to make a deal!

I am sure there are many more things to take from the show, and there are probably many of you that haven’t even seen it, but for me it has shown the importance of inspirational leadership and how you can create a culture of engagement through short, sharp communications and real empowerment.

For those who have missed it and now want to check it out, visit ITV player.

Melcrum Summit Day Two: From the Twittersphere

After posting about the content shared from day one, I thought it was only appropriate to do the same for day two.

The topics for this years summit, as you can see above was Competing on the Curver: Re-enginerring internal communications for agility, productivity and impact… And looking at the content the delegates were sharing, I’d say this was achieved.

It looked like the second day was more agency heavy and there more interactive sessions that day one, but there were more models and top line thinking shared.

The theme of internal communicator development, collaboration and using internal comms to support business change were key themes that certainly came through.

Marks and Spencer presented a case study on driving engagement through sustainability and Plan A. This made me wonder, do we need a big business project or change like Plan A to drive engagement and collaboration?

There were several comments around collaboration and social tools, especially comments. The best advice was to know your channel and your audience, set clear boundaries, find your advocates and be bold. A simply approach but when introducing two-way dialogue for the first time a great set of tips.

Being a catalyst

Yesterday I noted some of the great quotes that made their way out of the conference room, and today is no different:

  • We may all be in difference countries and locations but we all have the same challenges. It’s only the solutions that differ depending on your organisation
  • Be a catalyst for the right kind of conversations for leaders and employees
  • We need to shift from opportunists to strategists
  • Provide tools but get people to tell the story and provide the content
  • If you’re 16 or less now then you are a digital native

The future? Developing Internal Communicators

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. The future of internal comms is in our control. Once interesting theme today was around IC professionals development:

  • RBS talked about their Academy which offers comms people a range of business skills and specialized adviser training – a great idea for development.
  • “Internal Comms is a great connector. More than a function, it’s about networking, connecting, partnering across an organisation.”
  • 31% of the room said their IC function doesn’t have the right mix of skills – my question, have we even determined what those skills are?
  • We are going to invest in social media and leadership comms – what does investment in leadership comms look like?
  • T shaped people – have a deep knowledge of one subject and a wider knowledge of other topics too. In my opinion, this is what an internal communicator needs to be.

What was predicted? Leaders who can’t communicate effectively won’t be future leaders…

Leaping over those hurdles again…

There were more barriers discussed today:

  • Lack of clear strategic narrative is a barrier to implement a comms strategy (this is the best hurdle that has been communicated, and the first time I have seen someone articulate what is fundamentally an issue for all internal comms)
  • Budget
  • Resource

Engage for Success – @DrAndyBrown

As content goes, it seems like the Engage presentation gave some great thought provoking content:

If you’re defining collaboration in your organisation there are three steps to follow:

  1. DRIVERS: What are key drivers, barriers and enablers?
  2. COLLABORATION: How can employees collaborate to achieve objectives
  3. HARD ORGANISATIONAL OUTCOMES: What are the strategic objectives

Three things internal comms can do to help an organisation collaborate:

  1. Clear strategy, start with the outcomes
  2. Involve your people, work with relevant stakeholders to deliver the right tools and culture
  3. Work with HR to develop leadership and look to shape the future recruitment strategy

These raised some questions for me… 1 and 2 should be what we do every day.

8 steps of engagement heaven from Oliver Strong, Group Director, IC & Engagement, RSA,

  1. Board level advocacy: sell ideas to leaders using hard data
  2. Hold leaders accountable – leaders /managers need to pull their weight and play part in engagement strategy
  3. Bottle & share best practice – have regular check-ins / idea exchange
  4. Celebrate the best – Top scoring engagement leaders receive a treat
  5. Support low-scoring leaders
  6. Fix big issues
  7. Emotional connection – don’t make people feel like they’re going through process. Make them feel proud of job & comp.
  8. Alignment – High engagement & clear strategy; to link the two RSA put internal & external comms functions together

So after two days and many tweets (for which I am very grateful!) I think there have been some great insights shared and some learnings that all internal comms people can take away. For me, the view on change models, collaboration and team development will provide some great ideas for next year – thanks everyone who shared and the team @melcrum!

Introducing a New Leader

Earlier this year I had to research what to do when your leader changes and found lots or articles online and in Melcrum’s SCM publication.

Nearly everything I found approached the change as though I was a board member…and I’m not. So all the advice was somewhat useless as I couldn’t be the person these tips were saying I should be. The best piece of advice I found was a template for creating a 100 day plan from Hallmark.

So what did the first 100 days for my new leader really look like and what can I learn from managing the communication?

1. Get to know the new guy (or gal)

This might sound a little odd but one of the first things I did was meet the internal communications manager of his previous company. I wanted to know where internal comms sat in his previous business, what role they took on and what his opinion was of the function. I found this was invaluable to provide me with insight into how our new CEO viewed internal communications and would recommend others do this. No matter what we say about having a voice on the board, if your leader isn’t engaged with communications you will never have his ear, so is worth knowing early what their stance is.

2. Give him a plan

Whether or not it was needed, I could see the value in being prepared, so I pulled together a strategy for the first 100 days that outlined opportunities to meet people and where we could use our magazine and intranet. I can’t tell you if he read my plan, but it helped me think about what I needed to do and be ready for anything. Huge thanks to Dean Rodenbough at Hallmark for sharing his plan via Melcrum.

3. Introduce him before he arrives

I know the importance of positioning a new leader properly so their first impression is a good one. So the week before our new CEO arrived, I got in touch with him about doing a piece for our intranet to introduce himself and explain what he was going to be doing for the first few months. Our outgoing CEO had been in the business a long time and I wanted to get the positioning of the new leader in place before his arrival. Your exit strategy for your outgoing CEO is as important as your incoming leader. I found that the intranet piece was a great way for people to welcome him to the business and see his photo – we had 32 recommendations and 11 comments on the post which is good for us!

4. What do I need to tell him?

Everything I read told me to tell the new leader about the business and how it operated but I didn’t see that as my job. He has a board of directors who can tell him what they do and how they operate their function – why would I need to do that? Instead I wanted to be on hand as a subject matter expert on the company’s culture, specifically being there to advise and make sure he knew how he could communicate with people, what opportunities he had and let him know what was going on outside the office.

5. Every leader is different

The first 100 days in any organisation with any new leader will be a challenge for a communicator and what you need to do will differ depending on your leader and your business.. Read as much as you can but in the end you know your business and you know what will work and what won’t to engage everyone. Make yourself available as much as you can and use the opportunity to establish the role where you want it in the business.

So what did we do to introduce the new leader?

  • Interview with outgoing CEO in magazine
  • Intranet post from new CEO the week before arrival
  • Interview with new CEO in magazine
  • Regularly out in the business meeting people serving our customers
  • Attendance at events – Barista competitions, charity events etc.
  • Video pieces for induction of managers for when he cannot attend
  • After 2 months we hosted two town hall meetings for heads of department with key messages about changes in the business
  • CEO now posting updates on the intranet about where he is going and who he is seeing

What’s your contribution?

I spent today with a group of operations managers talking about behaviours, planning and overall mindset to change the way we do business. With supporting videos from Franklin Covey I was left with some great food for thought on contribution, how we choose everything we do and how we can impact every day.

What do I contribute every day? How does that help the business I work for achieve what they set out to achieve? Do I even know what that is? In any role in the business it is easy to think in a silo and get your head down to get your job done. But a truly engaged person is someone who is able to contribute to the business, with their whole self; their mind, body, heart and spirit. If I think about the different places I have worked in my career and how I have felt about going to work each day, the places where I believe I had the most success are the places where I could contribute the most. And i firmly believe that communication inside an organisation can fundamentally change the level of contribution an individual makes.

Communication not only engages people, it gives them a platform to have conversations about the business and challenge intiatives, discuss ideas and celebrate success. They can contribute to the business.

What you can do with the right mind set and the right attitude is endless; I will end this post with a link to a video from TED from Amy Purdy and how she changed her mindset when she lost both her legs to meningitis: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_purdy_living_beyond_limits.html