Arleen Porcell, MS, APR
Imagine if you were in this situation:
At an all-hands meeting, your director announces that the office will be relocating within a year. You volunteer to be part of the planning committee but don’t get a response. Throughout the year, the rumor mill among employees starts growing. You voice your concerns to your supervisor to no avail. Frustration sets in. Then, two months before the actual move, leadership asks you for a communications plan.
Does this scenario resonate with you? Just because you were invited to have a seat at the table in the past, it doesn’t mean you will be invited next time, or that you’ll be heard. During times of change, whether it is a physical relocation, adapting to new leadership, or launching an improvement initiative, leadership will be under a lot of stress and may forget about communications. Your influence as a communications counselor, however, has the potential to impact how smooth (or rough) change occurs within your organization. So, how do you prove your worth as an advisor to leadership, especially during critical times? These tips may help:
- Advocate for two-way communications early and frequently. Offer your counsel as well as hands-on tactical support. Be persistent.
- Speak your leaders’ language. Take the time to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). Do your due diligence. Have data to support your counsel. Share compelling insights.
- Learn and understand what motivates your leaders. Look for ways to explain what’s in it for them (WIIFT) and the risks of failing.
- Influence the influencers. Identify and recruit early adopters, and turn them into advocates. Use your emotional and social intelligence skills to get buy-in and overcome resistance.
- Listen, be sensitive, stay positive, and model the way.
- Don’t be afraid to ask, so what? Leaders may suggest or ask you to make happen an idea you know is not good or that has proven a failure in the past. Use your knowledge, experience, and expertise—be attuned to the political climate, read non-verbal cues, and talk with a trusted peer if needed, to decide whether or not to push back, and the right time to do so.
- Sound like a broken record. You are the communications expert. Keep educating leaders on the keys to clear and effective communications: accuracy, consistency, repetition, and timeliness.
- Adapt. For example, in this multigenerational workforce, your leaders may be younger than you. Your communication styles will be different. Be flexible.
- Agree with your leaders on how you will measure success. Celebrate and build on small successes.
- Find opportunities to share lessons learned with your leaders and colleagues.
Remember, communications is about relationships and leadership is about influence. Keep building and strengthening your relationships, providing your best counsel, and measuring results. Over time, you will earn the trust and credibility needed to become an influential and sought-after strategic partner.