Leadership in times of crisis

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FULHAM ROAD — I am doing a webcast for PR Week this afternoon. It’s a companion to an article on internal communications and leadership that will be running in the magazine this week.

I am looking through the questions that we’ll be addressing and they’re quite fun to answer.

Q. Why do organisations need to take internal communications leadership seriously?

A. To help the whole organisation. Leaders aren’t doing a bad job on purpose. (No one goes in to work planning to be useless!) What they lack are often content, and a decent process for communications. And they don’t have the skills required either.

We are not all natural communicators. We don’t have the same ‘communication style’. We don’t do the same stuff, the same way.

So organisations need to give leaders the tools they need to communicate effectively.

When the world of work, government and business is in such a mess, the last thing you want is leaders hiding in their offices (they don’t know what to say, when or how.) And employees too nervous to ask any questions… Or make any suggestions.

Q. Why do organisations overlook this? And why now?

A. There’s been a long and undignified history of organisations believing that people will “just know”. The idea is that there’s a great big round of organisational osmosis, by which ideas are transferred from brain to brain without a plan, a process, or even any very well articulated ideas.

And that is obviously just not realistic.

Today many organisations — including many of our friends and clients — are too busy worrying about bank balances, credit, restructurings, layoffs, hostile bids, market share, etc. etc. to think that regular communication is a priority.

That’s a mistake.

Many organisations overcame their commitment and loyalty to employees a long time ago. Most employees continue to be very loyal and committed to their organisations… until now.

Q. How difficult is it to implement these plans?

A. In many respects it is harder NOT to implement leadership communication plans. If you can’t get leaders out talking now, then when can you?! There is so much to talk about. No one has all the answers. No one. But with a bit of coaching on assurances that they can’t give leaders should be spending half their days talking to people and getting people talking.

That’s probably enough for now. I haven’t touch the newspapers yet and the bus ride is almost finished.


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