So much of what we achieve at work every day we achieve through other people, so building good relationships is pretty fundamental to our success.
The way we communicate with colleagues and key stakeholders can make or break those relationships so it pays to know a thing or two about workplace communications – and that it is not just about what we write or what we say. It’s also about what we do.
Interestingly when I ask people on my effective communication training courses what they think internal communications is, they inevitably say “The intranet ”, “Staff newsletters” or “What the comms team does”.
It’s not that they are wrong, exactly. It’s just that that is a fairly narrow definition. And as long as people think it’s someone else’s job, they are unlikely to be open to learning a lot about it.
A more helpful definition of internal communications is one that looks beyond the transactional communication outputs (such as newsletters and intranet stories) towards more intangible things that make organisation’s work, such as relationships, motivation, involvement, trust, loyalty, allegiance and knowledge.
Alessandra Mazzei, for instance, talks about a resource model view of internal communications that promotes ‘active communication behaviours’. That is, where people seek out, use and share information purposefully, engage in horizontal and cross-functional communication, inform management about problems, and disseminate positive information about the organisation’s reputation. Essentially it’s about the organisation’s culture, and its impact on performance.
So when you look at internal communications in that way, it starts to become much more clear that everyone has a role to play, and that people at all levels of an organisation can have an impact.
Building this understanding and communications capability among people who are not trained communications professionals has a flow on benefit to the corporate communications team. When people understand how to be more outcome-focused and effective in their everyday communications, they are likely to work more effectively with the corporate communications team – no longer seeing them as simply the “people who do the newsletters”, but as professionals who can help them achieve business objectives through more strategic communications planning.
Two of the most effective things you can do to improve your everyday communications at work are to (1) consider what you communicate through your behaviour, and (2) align your communications with your business objectives.
Consider what you communicate through your behaviour
- What you do communicates a powerful message. If there’s a conflict between what you say and what you do, your reputation and professional brand suffers.
- Think about the unintentional messages you might be sending. For instance, if your answerphone message says “Your call is important to me” but you don’t return the call, what does that do for your credibility?
- Most of what we achieve at work relies on collaboration with other people. If we lose the trust and confidence of key internal stakeholders, it makes it hard to do our jobs. In the words of Zig Ziglar: “The most important persuasion tool you have in your entire arsenal is integrity”.
Align your communications with your business objectives
- Before you decide how to communicate, think about why. Consider the business outcome you need communications to help you achieve and make that your starting point.
- Think about what you need people to do differently in order to address your business issue or achieve your outcome. What would they need to know, think or feel in order to do that?
- Identify the gap between what they currently do and what you need them to do. This will help prioritise and focus your communications.
- Consider these things before you set up your meeting, write your email, or prepare your next presentation.
Lucy Sanderson-Gammon, MBA, is a consultant, trainer and coach, specialising in organisational behaviour and communications. She is owner and director of Luminous Consulting.