Podcast: Turning leaders into communicators
Table of Contents
- How does Internal Comms help leaders overcome challenges?
- Overcoming the crisis of leadership
- Creating employee alignment and engagement with the help of Internal Comms
- How can we improve the relationship between leaders and Internal Communications?
- Human Resources and Internal Comms
- Helping leaders define the "Why"
- Leaders are human too
- Internal, external, and leadership communications
- How can we improve the relationship between leaders and Internal Communications?
- Human Resources and Internal Comms
26 mins read
Thu, Nov 12, '20
Some are born leaders, and some need to be trained. Leaders are made by followers, and you can only gain followers if you communicate well.
They need to engage, motivate, inform, and make them feel included. Well, “heavy is the head that wears the crown.”
We’re joined by the Doctor House of Internal Comms – though in real life we call him Jason Anthoine, the managing founder of Audacity, an American Internal Comms consultancy that’s changing the way companies look at IC in the United States. Jason’s name probably sounds familiar to you, as not so long ago he tuned in to talk about the development of the Internal Communications industry. Today he’s here to share his experience in another area he’s familiar with – the role of leadership in companies through Internal Comms’ perspective. How to coach leaders and help them communicate better, and how we can finally get them on our side. Grab a cup of tea (or a glass of wine) and make yourself comfortable – you’re in for a diagnostic treat.
You can listen or watch the podcast episode, or scroll down to read the full transcript if that’s your thing.Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher
Jonathan Davies: Alright, welcome! We're back again for another episode of the Internal Communications podcast. This week as a millennial would say, I'm truly #blessed to have Jason Anthoine back in the podcast. Jason, I'm going to let you reintroduce yourself again to our audience for those who miss out on the first episode. However, if you missed out on the first episode, don't stop what you're doing. Listen to this one first and then go back, and listen to the episode that we titled “From newsletters to AI”, which was also with Jason. That's still our most popular episode today.
Jason, lovely to have you back. Tell us who you are and let's get the show on the road.
Jason Anthoine: Well, thanks so much. It's a great pleasure to be here. I'm shocked and humbled to hear that the first podcast has done so well. Usually, I'm not on the top list for anything, so I'm really pleased that that's going well. I run a firm called Audacity and we help companies inform and involve, and inspire their employees. You can find out more on thinkaudacity.com.
My background has been almost 32 years of nothing but Internal Communications, employee engagement and culture change. When I first started out, it was much more traditional and kind of old school. We did a lot of printed newsletters and old time fax machines distribution, and fun things that we had to deal with back then with our current technology.
A lot of things have changed, but most of it has not changed, which is: What is your strategy? Who is your audience? How are you measuring whether anything that you've done has been successful? I really enjoy working with companies of all sizes, as I'm fond of saying our clients include the Fortune 500 and the less fortunate 5,000. As soon as you hire employee number two, you have Internal Communications challenges.
It doesn't matter how large you are. It doesn't even really matter what industry you're in. As soon as you hire employee number two, you have Internal Comms challenges and I love helping companies and leaders solve those problems all the time. So excited to be here. Thanks for having me, Jonathan.
How does Internal Comms help leaders overcome challenges?
Jonathan Davies: Awesome. Really happy to have you back. First off, we started talking because I told you that we wanted to do podcasts about leadership because around the time that this episode is released, the US elections will have been. It was a good time to spark a conversation about leadership in companies in general, and the role within Internal Communications, and the last time that we had a talk, it was very much centered around your vision on Internal Comms and technology. I know that you're a really strong talker on both of those subjects, but this time I'm going to hear you talk about a subject that I haven't personally heard you talk about before, but I know that you know a lot about, which is leadership in general.
First off, I want to ask you the most burning question that every Internal Communicator asks me. When we talk about the leadership trends level. We're going to take a step back, very practically speaking: an Internal Communicator works at a company, and there's a leader within that company.
The Internal Communicator needs to help this leader because this leader has an image problem. What can we do?
Jason Anthoine: What can we do so that not ever happens to anybody, right? We'd run into that challenge all the time and I think a lot of it stems around two things.
One, the leader that we're working with got promoted into that position typically because they're really good at making widgets. And so, “Hey, you do a good job making widgets. Why don't you manage a couple of folks?” and then a few years go by and “Hey, you're doing a great job managing all those widgets. Why don't you manage the function?”
And then on and on. The next thing you know, they've been promoted into a senior executive role, but they've never really been trained or developed over their careers for this communication aspect of their role. I think a lot of times they think, “Oh, I've got a communications department. I don't really have to communicate.”
As I love to say, communication is not a function, it's a leadership responsibility. Our job as Internal Communicators is to help them be better at communicating. It is not necessarily to do their communications for them, although that happens all the time. We have to write stuff, and put together talking points and certainly that's part of our role, but ideally we're getting them so comfortable with being able to do that themselves, that they want to do that. They just really need us to help them be better at it, but not necessarily do that for them. To me, the first challenge is when those leaders have been promoted into those roles, but they've never really been trained about their responsibility around communication.
Then the second challenge I think is shining a light on us as Internal Communicators. I don't know that we all think of ourselves as leaders, but we are. Our job is to be leaders in that organization, whether we're the CCO or we just graduated and were a specialist, in our very first job. Our roles are to be leaders in that organization and to be a good leader for another leader means being a trusted advisor. It means providing counsel and advice, and insights, and sometimes saying things that they haven't heard and don't want to hear, but that's our job. Our job is to give them that coaching, to give them that confidence, so that they can be better at what they're doing.
If you approach the relationship that way, then that becomes much more of a coaching relationship than it is “Hey, I'm a better communicator than you, and you need to edit this, or you need to say this in a different way.”. People don't really like that type of feedback. The more we can coach them and counsel them, I think the better they'll become at that.
That starts with us recognizing that we ourselves are also leaders in the organization.
Jonathan Davies: I think that's a really good point because, first off, for somebody to even want to approach you and ask you for help, they need to respect what you do, and they need to think you're really good at this. Then obviously the second part, which I think is always a key issue when you deal with people and that's not unique to Internal Comms, but it gets brought up very often, is trust and don't mistake a leader for somebody that's inhuman, this person also needs to trust you.
How do you even build up that trust, especially when you're new in a company, maybe one of your biggest projects to start with, is to help a leader out and kind of change that image that he or she has.
Jason Anthoine: I think that's an excellent point because it does really come down to trust.
In my experience, the best way to build trust is with face-to-face interactions. It's hard to trust people if you don't know them. It's even harder to help that leader communicate if you don't know him or her. One of the things that I like to do whether I'm working directly for a company or as a consultant is: yes, you've hired me to do this particular thing around communications, but I can't do that until I know you. We're going to go to lunch. I'm going to attend your Zoom calls. I'm going to get a list of all the things you like to read, both during work week and on the weekend. I want to see what you post on Facebook.
I want to see the types of things you look at on LinkedIn. I need to know you, so that I can provide the right counsel, and the right coaching that is relevant for you. This particular leader is totally different from the other leader, even though they sit next to each other and they kind of have the same title. To your point, Jonathan, they're separate human beings, and they have different personalities and different strengths and challenges.
The more we can know those things, the easier it is for them to then take counsel from us because we've taken time to build that trust instead of immediately coming in and start critiquing all the communications that they're doing.
Jonathan Davies: I think that's the other side of the story, right? I think there are kind of two extremes here.
You've got on one hand, maybe the very junior internal communication specialists that jumps in, and maybe it's the first or only the second time that I really have to deal with coaching leadership.That can be more of an intimidation factor because then you're looking at somebody who's way more senior than you or far more experienced.
You still need to build trust. But then on the other hand, maybe we've got the very experienced Internal Communicator or former journalist, or anything that we were very familiar with who comes in and just says “No, this is bad, this is also bad, neither are good.” You've got to find somewhere in the middle.
Jason Anthoine: That's right. Think about how you like to interact with other people, your best friends, the people that you trust. They're the ones who are giving you advice and counsel, and giving you options for how to do things a little bit differently versus telling you everything you're doing wrong, and being very prescriptive about what it is you need to do next.
All of that feels like an imposition to people. We don't need to really focus on trying to do all those things because leaders, they could care less about AP style and Oxford comma, and all the things that we obsess over. They just want to have their Comms be really good. The best way to make that happen is to really truly know that person and to have that trusted advisor relationship.
Overcoming the crisis of leadership
Jonathan Davies: I fully agree. Then I guess this begs the question, because leadership gets brought up not very much as a topic, but as an issue these days when it comes to the world of Internal Comms. My very standard question to you would be: Where is it all going wrong? What's the actual problem in the eyes of Jason Anthoine?
Jason Anthoine: That could be a list like a hundred things long. I don't know if we have time on one podcast to cover that. It feels like that might cover 20 podcasts. I think it's a crisis of leadership and a lot of it comes from the speed of business and some of the expectations that leaders have either put on themselves or have allowed external audiences, particularly shareholders and analysts, and investors to put on them. For example, there was a great article in Barron's a couple of weeks ago about this focus on maximizing profitability. The concept is most organizations are totally focused on making it from one quarter to the next quarter, to the next quarter, and hitting all of the KPIs that they're supposed to hit.
No argument with that. I think all organizations need to be focused on doing as best they can. Usually what happens is, they're so focused on making that number, that they don't realize the consequences around all the decisions and the behaviors that are taking place to make that number. We might have higher profitability, but does that mean, we have great relationships with our employees? Do we have great relationships with our supply chain? Are we constantly looking for the cheapest, most efficient option, when maybe one that's a little bit more expensive might be more environmentally friendly? There's just a lot of things I think that go into this crisis of speed and focus on the main, profit goal, whether it's quarterly or annually, because all of those things have repercussions, throughout the rest of the brand, both internally and externally. I think that causes leaders to be a little bit hesitant.
I think it causes them to be too focused on one particular thing versus being able to look at all those other things. Then I think the other thing that happens is they get very insulated from the actual operations of the business. One thing I tell communicators all the time is, it doesn't matter what your role in the Comms department is.
If you're working in Internal Communications, the best way for you to understand who it is you're communicating to, is to go out and meet with those people. Literally get off your desk, get away from your computer, go out and do the operations because those are your employees. Those are the ones that you are communicating with.
If you don't really truly know them and you don't really truly understand them, you’re not going to be as effective. Marketing does that – they talk to customers all day long. We should do the same thing with Internal Comms. I think leaders should also be doing that same thing themselves.
Because if they're trying to drive culture that's going to drive the external performance they're seeking to achieve, they've got to know more about their organization and the people who work there.
Creating employee alignment and engagement with the help of Internal Comms
Jonathan Davies: I think you brought up two really interesting topics, but there's one that I want to touch on a little bit more, which is what you just called the crisis of speed.
I think I've had people ask me before on fireside chats. When it comes to leadership, if my leader is not very communicative, help me understand what his problem is. The number one thing that I'll always bring up is adaptability that comes from the crisis of speed. I think you'll agree with me.
Market circumstances change quicker than we can blink these days. It's incredible. I mean, the COVID pandemic is a great example of that, right? Even the most traditionalist conservative organizations in order for business continuity to be a thing, their workforce suddenly had to work from home and that was not normal for them.
That's a massive shift and a big headache for a leader. If we understand that speed is a big issue to them, then maybe as Internal Communicators, we can also understand, “Okay. And here's where I can help.” I'm really curious to hear your opinion, but for me, the number one thing an Internal Communicator needs to focus on to help a leader cope with speed and adaptability, is creating alignment, helping everybody or helping that leader help everybody's noses point in the right direction when market circumstances change. I’m really curious to hear your opinion on that.
Jason Anthoine: I think that's an excellent point. That whole idea around alignment is a critical one. To me, there's just been a ton of focus, particularly from, our friends in Human Resources around engagement, and engagement and alignment are two different things. Organizations spend a lot of time measuring engagement. Quite frankly, I don't know that any of those scores are very helpful.
Particularly when we were looking at the true value of the culture and what it is that employees actually want, because we all know this as Internal Comms folks, we do surveys from time to time and people will tell us one thing or another. The reality is, most people lie when the company asks them what they think about something they're not going to be totally true, because there's always a suspicion there about “What are they going to do if I actually tell the truth?”
I don't know that those engagement numbers really truly reflect exactly what it is that employees feel, because for example, I might say, “Yes, I'm very engaged, but it's because I've got a mortgage and a kid that's about to go to school, and it has nothing to do with whether or not I truly love this organization and want to keep working here.
There's a whole lot of focus on engagement. That's different from alignment. Alignment is “Do I know where the company's going and do I know what to do every single day in my role to help us get there?” The more leaders can paint that picture and draw that sort of journey map for their employees, the easier it is for us to then interpret those sort of way points along the way and the different touch points we're going to experience as we make that journey for all of our employees. That to me is the number one role for leaders to do. For employees is, draw that journey map, talk about where we're going and how we 're going to get there and then help interpret that for every single employee in that organization, so they know what to do every single day, day in and day out. That's aligned with that. Other than that, you get a lot of people doing a whole lot of stuff and just because you're busy doesn't mean you're productive. All that effort needs to be focused into that one direction.
Jonathan Davies: Yes, exactly. I've got to repeat: just because you're busy doesn't mean you're productive. I think what a lot of people need to realize is that when you increase alignment, the ultimate end output that you're doing is you're increasing the productivity of your organization. The opposite of productivity is not being unproductive. The opposite of productivity is wasted work. People that are unproductive are mishires. You can't do anything about that. Nothing that you can change will happen, but there are so many people in organizations that are doing work that is not aligned with the goals of an organization, the objectives that we're trying to complete, or even very simple KPIs, that's a massive headache to leaders. Especially a bigger challenge is when market circumstance changes, suddenly goals change, KPIs change.
How can we improve the relationship between leaders and Internal Communications?
It's logical that people need to adjust it up. That's what the communications are there to facilitate. I'm happy that we agree on that, that's amazing. Here's what I want to know. Because I want to give every Internal Communicator that's listening right now some tools that, after they're done listening to this podcast, they're going to say “I can make the relationship between Internal Comms and my leader better”.
There's a problem that we need to figure out a solution. Which aspects of those solutions are Internal Comms fully accountable for? What's completely in their limits that they can change right now?
Jason Anthoine: I think it's probably three things. The first is to spend more time with both leaders and employees. Literally spend time. We always approach them when we have some sort of deadline, I've got to write this thing, or I got to shoot this video or we need some content, whatever. That's the only time we ever really approached them. But we've got to spend more time with our leaders and with our employees so that we truly understand who both of those groups are and what we can do to help bridge whatever the gaps are there. That's the first thing.
The second thing is, we've got to spend more time gathering data and analytics, and I know everybody in the world has talked about the value of measuring everything. People start to sound like a broken record over time, but it's absolutely true. If you look down the hall at what marketing does and all the money, and all the budget, and all the resources, and team members, and everything that they get: they get it because they're going back to the senior leaders and say, “you gave us this money and here's the return on investment that we had from that money. If you give us more, we can increase that return.”
We don't do any of that. We never have, and it's just not something we've ever practiced, but if we want to have the same level of reputation and performance as our friends in marketing, we need to start spending more time on that, so we can say “This isn't just my opinion, because I'm a good communicator. This is my opinion, because I'm a good communicator, and it's backed up by these facts, by these data points, because everybody in that C-suite is sitting around that table and they're looking at numbers and we come in there with words and pictures and it's just a different conversation.
The more we can focus on backing up those things with data, I think the better.
I think the third area is really trying to figure out what it is that employees want. We think it's one thing, mostly because we don't ask them. Sometimes because they also lie, but we really need to understand what it is that they want and need. When they say what those things are, we have to go back to the leaders and tell them that. I think a lot of leaders only get told what is acceptable for people to say and what they think. Those leaders want to hear, and that is not our job. Our job is to tell them unvarnished exactly what it is that's going on.
Sometimes we're the only ones who are doing that, but it's our job to do that, so that they can make better decisions based on actual relevant data and personal experiences that we've had with the very people that they're trying to reach. It feels like a combination of those three things are going to get us a better relationship with our leaders and are going to help our leaders be better, so that it drives both culture and performance of the company.
Jonathan Davies: I fully agree with that. You mentioning that people lie on surveys, just makes me want to call you “The Dr. House of Internal Communications”, because that theme of “everybody lies” is very much there, then also the diagnosing of problems. I'm really going to call you Gregory House from now on, Jason.
Human Resources and Internal Comms
Jason Anthoine: That's right. I appreciate that. I don't know if I'm that good looking, but I'll take that compliment. You brought up a great point earlier about people who are the opposite of engagement and things like that. That I think is a huge challenge because there's a lot of people in all organizations who are just there and they're not engaged, they're not actively disengaged. They're just there.
That sort of mushy middle part is where there's a ton of opportunity. It's an opportunity for HR to look and see if these are really the right people that need to be on the bus. If so, what can be done to get them fully committed and aligned?
And if not, what can be done to help them out of the organization and find the right opportunity for them. We don't need to crowd that middle with people who are just hanging on and taking up room. If there's an opportunity for them to either be developed in such a way that they do become more eager and aligned, or they’re being helped out to their next opportunity somewhere else.
A lot of times organizations just ignore that part of it. I think that's another huge issue because you've got to really think about what it is that you're trying to do and how to do it. A friend of mine told me a long time ago that the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. That mushy middle can sometimes be totally indifferent to everything that you're trying to do. It makes it hard for the organization to make progress. If that's the case, figure out some things and start doing something about it.
Jonathan Davies: And help your leaders identify that not mushy middle, and talk to them and help them figure out how we can make better use fit. I agree with you that I liked the term mushy middle. I always call Internal Comms a business's biggest source of untapped potential, but the mushy middle is probably Internal Comms, because some of them can change really easily if you just give them some attention or some reason to engage. I think this is where your vision always comes in – just send people stuff, ask them what they want. You'd be surprised what happens there. Back to the topic of leadership. We just talked about what Internal Comms are accountable for and what we can do to change immediately. You gave us free, very valid points. Now, what are leaders doing and what can leaders do better? What are they accountable for in this crazy relationship dynamic?
Helping leaders define the "Why"
Jason Anthoine: I think, leaders are accountable for mapping out the journey, the roadmap. I think a lot of them do a really good job of explaining the what and the who and the when, and sometimes the where, but where they're missing out is the why. People spend a lot of brand and a lot of money on purpose and mission, and vision, and values.
Those are fantastic. We should have those things, but just because you do those things, does it mean you've truly defined the “why” behind what the organization is doing. To me that’s the most valuable role that leaders can play is defining that. “Why are we doing this? What ultimately are we trying to accomplish as an organization in this world?”
People just aren't excited to get up out of bed, so that they can change earnings per share every quarter. They want something that's a little more substantial and a little more meaty. That's the why. The more those leaders can paint the picture of the “why”, the easier it is for every other leader right down the line to then interpret that for all the other employees as to what it is they're doing every single day. That “why” part of leaders I think is as important, as is empathy.
I've always wondered, somebody who's in an organization and they're in the C-suite and they sometimes make squirrely decisions and people go, “I don't understand why anybody would decide something like that. If I was ever up there, I wouldn't decide anything like that.” Well, the reality is that the senior leader also used to be a junior person in some organization somewhere. They used to look up to their senior leaders and say “I don't understand why it is they decided something like that. If I ever get to that job, I'm not going to do that at all.
And now they are doing that. There's some point in your career where you kind of lose touch with reality. I think it's our job to help them stay in touch with reality because sometimes decisions get made that way, because they don't know everything that's going on, because the people around them aren't telling them all those things.
If we want to have those be better decisions, we've got to keep those leaders grounded in the reality of what's going on in the culture. That's certainly a key role that we play. Helping those leaders, define the “why” based on the reality of “Who we are as an organization” and “How we can get to where we want to go?”
Jonathan Davies: I think that's a really interesting point. You reminded me of a saying I heard once. They said that it's the duty of a younger generation to outdo the older generation. Sometimes, maybe somewhere along the line, they lost track.
Leaders are human too
Sometimes, maybe somewhere along the line, they realize, “What I fought as a very inexperienced junior person that this super senior person was doing wrong, actually turned out to be the right thing. That's also possible, but it's good. It's good to amplify that they’re not born leaders. They go through an entire developmental journey to get there. It's not because they're a CEO, they're suddenly more than human.
Jason Anthoine: Leadership is an acquired skill over time. It's just like anything else. You want to be a good programmer? Take fake C++ courses or whatever the programming languages are. You want to be a good leader? You got to be developed in that way. It doesn't just naturally happen. Even the best leaders have had that kind of development along the way.
Jonathan Davies: Speaking of the best leaders, I think you knew that this question was coming because we talked about it before. I always rope you in because you've got beautiful examples of things going the right way. I just really want to ask you if you have examples of strong leadership within companies that were made stronger by also strong communication. Where did something go really well within leadership and how did the communicator amplify that?
Jason Anthoine: I think one of the best leaders that I'm aware of right now, or at least I have visibility into, looking from the outside in, is Ed Bastian, who's the CEO of Delta Airlines. They're headquartered here in Atlanta. I probably get a little more Delta news than others do across the globe.
From day one, as the CEO of that organization his focus has been equally external and internal at the same time. Every now and then there's some sort of crazy incident on an airplane and the flight attendant or the crew has to step in, or it happens at the gate or there's some sort of baggage issue or things like that.
If for whatever reason that escalates in social media and becomes very visible, and almost every single time that has happened, he has come down on the side of the employees to say, “It's an unfortunate situation, but we're not going to allow you to treat our employees this way. In fact, some of you are no longer allowed to file on this airline anymore because our employees are so important to us. We trust their direction and their insight and their own leadership while they're doing their jobs.”
I think he's done a great job of rethinking and re-imagining what the airline business is, and the customer experience, but certainly the employee experience around that. He's got a great communications team around him, who helped him do that, but he's the type of leader who doesn't really need a lot of help doing that. He's just naturally thinking that way, and that's just very impressive to me.
Internal, external, and leadership communications
Jonathan Davies: I think that's a particular skill, right? To handle those situations. We know that the public eye is constantly looking at you to be okay in that area. Then hopefully have a strong communicator in your back. Whether it's a PR person or very much of an Internal Comms person helping you when it comes to communicating to your people. I think that there's also a big difference between that, right?
Because a PR person is there to help manage reputation, and I feel like an Internal Comms person is there to help really completely manage the transparency and the honesty of what happens within a company. Is there a significant difference in the advisory positions of both roles?
Jason Anthoine: I don't know that there's a significant difference because ultimately both of them are responsible for reputation. One is just a little more inwardly focused than the other one. It's always curious to me that organizations still have a communication structure that has internal and external and more Comms and CSR, as if any of those things are totally unrelated to each other.
They're all the same. Internal is external. External is internal. The more function operates that way and provides that type of counsel, and trusted advice to the leaders of the organization, the more they begin to also see that there's no difference between internal and external.
I think Delta Airlines really understand that and gets that, just because it's happening externally doesn't mean there's not an impact internally. Just because it was internal doesn't mean there wasn't an impact externally, and he just gets that. A lot of other leaders are still caught in the “Oh, well that happened, outside. There is no impact on the inside.” That's just not true anymore.
Jonathan Davies: Very true. The last subject that I want to touch upon is something that we spoke of before. There are different kinds of leadership issues, depending on where you are in the world. Having looked at the wonderful people that listen to this podcast and tune in every two weeks – Yes, You! We know that within the US leadership communications focus is very heavily around directors, C-level executives and kind of the higher levels of leadership.
Whereas in Europe, we're focusing more around immediate management and the level above that. I'm very curious. You gave us a lot of insight on things like the higher level leadership and how we can improve our relationship with them and what that will ultimately contribute to. How do you see this when it comes to direct leadership line management and maybe middle-management buffet up?
Jason Anthoine: I think it's very interesting that there's more focus on line managers in Europe than there is here in the US and I absolutely agree with that. Everywhere I've been, most of them focus on leadership communications at that sort of senior level, at the headquarters level. The reality is when that brand is marketing to whoever the customers are, it's making a promise to those customers and the people responsible for keeping that promise are not the ones that are sitting at the C-suite. They are every other leader and manager, and frontline supervisor, and employee throughout the rest of the organization. Here in the US we spend a lot of time making sure our senior leaders are communicating the right way, but not as much time as you do in Europe about making sure that our line managers are communicating the right way.
I think that's a huge missed opportunity for us because ultimately it's those people who can have the most direct effect. Unfortunately though, they're also the ones who get squeezed the most. Usually us Comms people think “We should do some communications for our line managers. Let's put together some talking points and let's add some slides for the town hall deck that they can use with their own teams and then we can give those to them. Then they'll cascade that throughout the organization for us.”
Nope. They're not going to do that because their plate is already full. Not only is it full, it is running over. We come to them thinking that we're helping by putting more things on their plate. it just puts them in a situation where they're trying to decide between competing priorities. Rather than automatically saying “Let's give them stuff to do.”
One of the things that we can do that I've seen work really well is to go to them and say, “What are all the things you are already doing? Are there any things on that plate that you think you shouldn't be doing? How can I help you go to whoever it is you need to go to, so that work can stop?” We are then really helping you focus on the actual work.
That's going to make a ton of difference in our culture, versus some of the stuff, which is quite frankly busy work, that we could just do away with. If we can go to them and start asking those types of questions and helping to be a trusted business advisor, not a Comms advisor, but a trusted business partner and help them be better at being managers.
Then that A. establishes a trusted relationship, and B., hopefully will free up some time, so that they can do some of these other things that we know are important, but to just go to them and say “Look at this great town hall deck and these talking points we've put together for you. Please do this.” I think that would show our own ignorance about how busy these people are and how much they have to do, most of which is busy work. What can we do to help them not have as much of that?
Jonathan Davies: I completely agree. Actually you just saying that only reaffirms my idea that I've had from a couple of podcasts before. I see Internal Comms in an ideal utopical world, evolving into a position where we much like HR business partners, we’ve Internal Comms business partners, we're there to help them understand and run this engine in a well-oiled manner. The fuel for that engine happens to be our people, which makes them the most valuable resource. I hope that that's where Internal Comms evolve towards, that we really get in a position.
Jason Anthoine: I've talked with a lot of folks, Mike Klein and other thinkers in the space, about the role of Internal Comms. All of us tend to agree that an evolved state of an Internal Comms function acts more like a change management and a transformation function than it does a communications function. That doesn't mean we don't do communications anymore, but it does mean that we are focused on the change and the transformation part, and then all the Comms that come along with that.
In that example that I just gave that's changed. That's a transformation effort. That's us going to those line managers and saying, “What can we do to make your job better?” and then helping to make that happen. In that process, there's a ton of communications that can happen, that we can be responsible for and help with. But ideally as the function evolves over time, we're becoming much more change partners, and change accelerators, who happen to be really good communicators.
Jonathan Davies: Exactly. The Human Resources executives are not cold policymakers. They're there for Human Resources. Maybe we need to figure a better, more ambitious way of naming ourselves.
Jason Anthoine: Oh gosh, don't step into that mud puddle! We've been debating that topic for like five years now. If we're not going to be in Internal Communications, what can we call ourselves? We haven't come up with a better name yet!
Jonathan Davies: We'll get there, but that's going to be for another episode because we were completely out of time, even though I want to keep talking on forever. Jason, thanks so much for being here again.
Jason Anthoine: Thank you, Jonathan. It's always a pleasure. I appreciate talking with you. It's great to just share ideas and explore different things.
Jonathan Davies: Same here. One last time: How can people get in touch with you if they ever want to bounce ideas off with you?
Jason Anthoine: You can catch me on the website thinkaudacity.com. I'm on Twitter and Instagram. I've also started my own podcast called “Do less bad” – do less bad in order to do more good. You can check that out at dolessbad.com.
Jonathan Davies: Awesome. Definitely check that out! Thank you for tuning in and until next time, Jason. Thanks so much. Goodbye.
Jason Anthoine: Goodbye.