Communicators, are you steering the ship or along for the ride?
Communications is a dynamic discipline in many organizations, but a gray suit with white shirt in others. Some companies dedicate headcount, professional development funds, and a literal seat at the table to communicators. Others regard communicators as note-takers, single subject matter experts, and unimportant to the strategy around a business initiative. In an instant, you know which camp your organization falls into.
Regardless of which scenario describes communications within your company, take these steps to further legitimize communications and your role as a strategic partner to senior leaders.
1. Explain the critical need for regular time with a senior leader. As importantly, ensure that the
leader’s executive assistant understands and prioritizes your time. You define what “regular”
means, but predictable time, and the right preparation in advance, will position you
as a truly valuable partner. When you meet, lead the conversation on topics like these:
- Recent and upcoming leadership decisions
- Good news, bad news, concerns, or rumors
- Work you’re currently supporting
- Upcoming engagements
A senior leader will thank you for the thoughtful, two-way conversation about business
challenges that communications can solve.
2. Be a source of valuable information a senior leader won’t hear unless from you. We all have
networks of co-workers that with a simple tweak can help uncover important insights and
concerns. Of course, confidentiality is a must and gossip isn’t the point. That said, you’ll find
that network members appreciate a (sometimes rare) chance to provide perspective and be
heard. Ask smart questions like:
“What do you know that I don’t know, but should?”
It’s a mouthful, but few questions provoke more thought while making someone feel valued and that they’re having a meaningful business conversation that can do some good.
3. Take something that many pay lip service and turn it into an actual practice. Stakeholder
engagement can be hugely powerful for senior leaders when they acknowledge that trust and
relationships drive business.
Advocate for strategic relationships that make stakeholders feel valued, uncover potential
derailers, and develop reciprocity over time. Work with a senior leader to answer questions like
these during your regular time (this is far from an exhaustive list):
- What do you want to accomplish with the stakeholder?
- How do you want to be seen by the stakeholder?
- What would you like the stakeholder to do?
- Who influences the stakeholder?
- What actions will you take to build the relationship and trust?
Call it stakeholder engagement or just nurturing important relationships with people that matter. Either way, thoughtfully cultivating relationships can bring stakeholders to a senior leader’s side because they took the time to listen, understand, and influence the right people.
Without question, the stakeholder conversation is one that communicators should drive.