Your hope is my nightmare: which way for business communication?

Two of my favorite people in the internal comms world are Lise Michaud and Stephen Welch.

Lise—I have massive appreciation for her launch of IC Kollectif, the emerging Center of Excellence in the internal communication field, and I eagerly await the often-outstanding content that comes from “ICK’s” various channels.

For the holiday season, Lise asked the question of “What is your greatest hope for the Internal Comms profession in 2017” to a variety of IC pros and thought leaders.  Stephen, whose answer appeared this morning, is a fellow North American-turned-Brit who shares my passion for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, so I am generally inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.  But reading this sentence in his answer after my morning Starbucks, I had to strap on the gloves:

Internal Communication professionals should become more coaches and strategic advisers to senior management, not people who actually “do” communication. Every time an internal communications person actually ‘does’ a communication, a leader somewhere is not doing his or her job”

I get this may be Stephen’s hope.  Indeed, I have been hearing this complaint/advice since my time starting in IC in the late ‘90s.  I reject it – and actually find it nightmarish –  for two main reasons:

  • We often have better and clearer vision of the big picture and what resonates about it than do many of the people we work for, and generally a better way of articulating it than they can.
  • We should not despise our own skills and talents: as communicators our strategic, empathetic and craft skills are all interconnected, and are reflected in the “communications we ‘do’”.  We should not tie one or both of our arms behind our backs as a matter of principle, or withhold helpful contributions to make some kind of point.

Indeed, while some think that leaders taking full ownership of communication delivery is some kind of a dream outcome, I prefer to dream of a more dynamic relationship between leader and communicator—one of dialogue and discussion which empowers communication professionals to deliver the most resonant, best-targeted and highest impact communications we can deliver.