new leaders

What leaders should expect from their communication counsel

As a leader, what should you expect from a communication strategist?

What a great question, and the subject of a recent post on the LinkedIn CommsScrum Group (requires membership). Having worked with C-suite, executive and Board-level leaders across a range of industries, here are some things I think leaders should expect from their comms strategists.

They will treat you as a person. Trust is a process of reciprocity, but it pays dividends. Experienced comms strategists will understand that leaders are human. They will recognise that in business, an executive can seldom get to where they are without some communication strengths, but that their current positions may mean that constructive feedback about areas for improvement isn’t always forthcoming. A good strategist will seek to understand the executive’s business goals and personal context in order to develop programs that help to achieve both.

They will listen. And they might ask more questions than you may be used to from anyone except the CEO or Board. As an executive, you have so many aspects of the business in your head that making connections, judgements and evaluations about your operation is instinctive. Experienced comms strategists will seek to understand your business priorites from your perspective. And in the process, they will (depending on their approach) seek to understand the ‘why’ before helping you with the ‘what’.

They will build on your strengths. An experienced communication strategist understands that protecting the authentic strengths of a leader is a key priority. They will take time to understand what you are best at. This isn’t the same as never asking you to do something you aren’t comfortable with; strengths are sometimes underplayed.

They will talk to you about the business, not just about communication. Experienced comms strategists are business people using communication as a driver for business results. They will ask about goals, about performance, about metrics, about culture, about competition, about risks and issues. And then they will start talking about communication. If they jump straight to the comms stuff, beware.

With that in mind:

  • Be clear about your expectations and in describing what a successful engagement will look like from your perspective.
  • Be open to professional counsel with a view to building trust.
  • Be prepared to contribute time, opinions and knowledge in the development of strategy.

 

Not the zombie apocalypse

Preparing to work with a communication advisor doesn’t need to be scary

Induction, undercover: lessons from Undercover Boss Australia Pt 4

For Ray Schliebs, the new CEO of Big4 Holiday Park, taking part in Undercover Boss Australia during his first week at the company was a chance to be inducted into all aspects of the business.

Undercover Boss Australia

Twitter suggests next series of Undercover Boss

Affable Schliebs comes to his first day the role with extensive experience in travel, tourism and hospitality. He is at ease with the employees at all levels and demonstrates an open rapport. Years of experience at the front line of travel has equipped him to be a good listener and to relate to a diverse range of people.

The first three months for an executive is a critical time. In that period, new leaders need to understand the organisation and set about achieving early success that will enable their subsequent agenda. Michael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days, recommends that new executives need to accelerate their learning. By going to a range of parks, Schliebs get to hear from the owners about what is working and what keeps them awake at night, important inputs to the strategic direction of the park.

How can leaders capitalise on being the new kid?

  • Introduce yourself. Managers and employees will interpret your comments, behaviours and decisions from the outset.
  • Get out and about. Starting in the company is a fantastic reason to see the operations. Start the way you mean to continue.
  • Ask open questions. What are you working on? How does that work? What has been working? What would you change? How can I help?
  • Listen. Then listen more.

As my mother would say, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

The human face of organ transplant
Australia has one of the highest rates of success for organ transplant operations in the world, yet a transplant rate that is up to 50% lower than other countries. This episode of Undercover Boss included the story of Quentin, a Queensland park franchisee who has been able to continue a life with his family as a result of a successful transplant. For more information on organ donation, visit http://www.donatelife.gov.au/. Ticking the box is not enough, and Donate Life includes resources for you to discuss your wishes with your family.

Disclosure: I have previously provided volunteer communication services for Transplant Australia and currently for ShareLife Australia.