In the past, it has pained me to experience the limitations of positioning communications under HR and naming it Employee Comms. That just seemed to be the way it always was and appears to result in a function which focusses on messages from the top and those around the subject of employment and events. What a privilege it has been to look at the internal communications of a University. A university where the term Employee Comms was not even mentioned, there was an organisational-wide understanding that everyone was responsible and HR and Marketing desired to worked in partnership to help facilitate that connectivity.
Have you ever reflected on the contrasting perspectives held by different departments within your organisation?
It is easy to see where there are obvious entrenched perspectives outside of our sphere but we are often blind to the fixed, and perhaps misconceived, positions we hold ourselves.
Check out my latest Yorkshire Times Article.
Have you ever reflected on what entrenched positions you live comfortably with every day? Entrenched views about politics, the weather, people you know, the department you just struggle to work with. Somehow it is far more comfortable to order our world into boxes of perspectives where we can put that there and put this here. Leaning on our own limited understanding is a temporary but often satisfactory comfort. Oh but the exhilaration and endless possibility of unpicking the positions we take. It is messy - of course its messy but just as when you start to tidy your bedroom it looks much much worse before it gets better, the end product is also something to marvel at.
Pavement Mushrooms (Agaricus Bitorquis) really inspire me. Their texture does not seem very strong and they are easily bruised, but somehow bit-by-bit they seem to be able to nudge at pavements inches thick and eventually break through without damaging themselves. These unique fungi “may be found growing in gardens, and at roadsides, often where salt is applied to combat ice in winter. Pushing through asphalt and slabs, they are very subterranean, and often mature underground” http://bit.ly/126rHJQ. “They are fairly rare, but where they do occur these mushrooms are more often seen in small groups rather than singletons” http://bit.ly/1cYFSC6
I find myself reflecting on why that inspires me so much and why, whenever I see one, I have to stop, examine it and reflect on what it has achieved.
For me it seems to throw out a challenge that we too, despite being quite fragile and easily bruised, can break up the hard ground around us that seems set and permanent. I love the idea that they mature underground, out of site, and then when mature they have the strength to break up pavements and lift slabs of stone. I am interested by the fact that they often dwell in salty and, I would suggest, inhospitable places. Also, that they are not solitary but are often found in groups.
There is something here that resonates with my passion for loosely connecting people (Connecting the Connectors). People, who together have the potential to break up the ground and bring change to systems and structures they perceive are not working but have seemingly been set in stone.
Is it just me who cannot remember ever giving permission to hundreds of random organisations to make contact with me? Is it just me who has more emails in my junk mail than in my actual inbox? Is it just me who has to fight her way through 10 emails I have no interest in to find the gem that may mean I have some work?
Is it just me who struggles every time she is asked to come up with another new password? Just me who fights against the temptation to use the same password for everything because at least then I will actually remember what my password is in any situation? Of course I realise just how risky that is!
Is it just me who knows that, for my business, the use of ‘twitter’ needs to sustainably be built into my life? Is it just me who keeps trying to do that but finds it a really difficult habit to form? Is it just me who knows that if all I tweet is stuff I have written people will view me as self-centrered but often I find myself doing just that? Is it just me who knows that I really need to use twitter to find and follow those who have interesting and inspiring things to say related to the things I too am passionate about but just don’t find the time to do it? Is it just me who knows that what I need to do (as I do face to face) is to try to connect people with information and contacts that may be useful to them just for the sake of helping, and not for my own personal gain? To get to this virtual place of sustainable, intuitive, helpfulness requires time, however, and that I seem to have too little of.
Is it just me who is uncomfortable with ‘facebook’ but knows that I need to get my head around it because most people love it? Is it just me who keeps attempting to do that but every time I go on I come off frustrated at how non-intuitive I find it and annoyed about the majority of content posted on my wall?
In this world where every piece of kit, programme and platform seem to have a varying degrees of being able to sync or share some level of information with another devices, it seems that nothing is sacred. With an ancient inbuilt desire in me to control, order and prioritise information, I know I have no choice but to lose that control and to somehow learn to swim.
Has anyone got any buoyancy aids?
'Relationships are like bridges, the stronger they are the weightier the message that is able to travel safely over them...'
Check out my latest article in the Business Section of 'The Yorkshire Times', my local online newspaper
I love what Jo Ann Sweeney says about “natural communicators, resistors and the bulging middle” http://www.commsabilities.com/blog.asp In her experience she would say that just 10% of leaders are natural communicators; those who “have a passion for people, are respected by their peers and direct reports, know how to build rapport, listen with empathy, engage and motivate”.
I concur completely with this and would like to build on it, suggesting that this 10% rule also applies across the entire organisation. These communicators or ‘connectors’ have what I would describe as a ‘relational radar’. This inbuilt ability enables them to observe and interpret the relational dynamics of organisational life. They naturally seem to be able to grasp how to build relationship with all types of people, whether they are those who may attempt to block things or those who may be catalysts for change.
I have often reflected on the effect of for example placing Employee Communications under HR, Internal Communications under Marketing or perhaps Knowledge Management under IT. From experience I would suggest that the function of communications takes on the persona or culture of the department under which it sits. So in my example Employee Communications is dominated by information ‘needed’ by staff, Internal Communications plays second fiddle to external communications (in budget allocation and size of team) and Knowledge Management focuses on technology.
The issue of where communications should sit has been debated, without conclusion, for decades. I would like to consider the synergistic effect of connecting the connectors. Looking at how those who are naturally gifted in communications, networking and relationship building can be connected to help with the facilitation of Internal Communications.
I would suggest there is great potential in a network of communicators rather than a team under a department.
Just a thought…
Whilst staying in Anglesey, for a gloriously sunny bank holiday weekend, I was amused by what I found in the cupboard.
It made me wonder why the instruction had not been heeded. Was it because people do not like being told what to do? Was it because someone ignored it and everyone after that just followed suit; "if it was alright for them then it is alright for me". Was it just apathy?
The shelf needed to be kept empty because if it was piled high it was in danger of breaking.
How many times does this happen in the organisations where we work and how often is that directly related to how these things are actually communicated?
One problem I find, when approaching organisations to help with their internal dynamics, is that investment is automatically directed at external comms and marketing but rarely at internal. Internal communications breakdown can often be cited as a reason for 'organisational chaos' but can also be classed as 'soft' and immeasurable and, therefore, difficult to tackle. Subsequently, it is usually considered a side issue and the responsibility of HR.
I love what Tim Johns (Communications Expert and Owner, Orato Consulting) says in his article on 'Simply Communicate' regarding his 2013 predictions for Internal Communications http://bit.ly/16jJiRk
To quote :
"2013 will be the year when internal communications starts to take itself seriously...when it breaks free from its second cousin once removed, HR...and when it recognises that it is not a transactional channel. ...The role of internal communications is not about narratives; in fact, it’s not about messages at all...If the business wants a culture that is open, honest, non-hierarchical, meritocratic, collaborative, curious and empowered, then the role of internal communications is to provide a rich communication environment in which those values can flourish. Rather than designing great channels and hoping people will come to the party, it will be about finding out how they want to work and live and then creating a communications environment that can support it.”
I sincerely hope he is right!