Category Archives: Leadership

We should all beware of experts

gingerCEOs and senior business leaders are increasingly placing their trust in experts such as academics, consultants and technical experts.   A 2011 report from the Edelman group points to a dramatic rise in leaders turning to ‘credentialed spokespeople’, so-called experts. But is ‘expertise’ really all it’s cracked up to be?   In 1984 The Economist set a challenge to four different groups to predict what the stock market would look like in ten years time. The groups were made up of four former finance ministers, four company chairmen, four Oxford University students and four London dustmen. Ten years on, who came closest? Of course, it was the dustmen, with the finance ministers trailing in last place.   A study of 82,000 predictions by 284 experts over a 16 year period on issues ranging from the fall of the Soviet Union, oil prices, the Arab Spring and 9/11 showed that the so-called experts got no more right than a monkey randomly sticking a pin in a board.   According to Noreena Hertz’s fabulous book Eyes Wide Open, a 2012 challenge run by The Observer pitted a team of professional investment advisors against a ginger cat called Orlando. Whilst the professionals studies the stock market and used their decades of experience to select winning stocks, Orlando made his choice by pushing a toy mouse onto a grid of numbers.   At the end of the year, Orlando ended up with an impressive 11% return, compared to the ‘experts’ measly 3.5%.

As Hertz says: “experts are taken at face value simply because they are perceived as being expert.” She points to a recent experiment in which a group of adults were asked to make a financial decision while contemplating an expert’s advice. An fMRI scanner measured their brain activity as they did so. What happened next shocked the researchers.  When faced with expert advice, the independent decision making parts of the participants’ brain effectively switched off. An experts speaks, and we stop thinking for ourselves. In her book, Hertz calls for greater consideration of what she calls ‘lay experts’ – those people with skills and experience from the front line.   “Traditional experts come to the table with particular skills and knowhow,” she says. “They are valuable, yet all too often they make their pronouncements from on high, without sufficient mindfulness of context or local conditions. Lay experts, on the other hand, have their feet on the ground. This means that they are capable of delivering insights that those looking down from up top, however qualified, may never discover or volunteer.” We need instead to tap into what Nobel prizewinning economist Friedrich Hayek describes as “the dispersed wisdom of those on the ground.” They may not have the PHDs and the fancy job titles but they almost certainly know what’s best.   When faced with a challenge, expensive consultants are not always the answer. And I’m speaking as a consultant, so I’m effectively saying, don’t hire me.

What to do if your boss is a psychopath

office-politicsWhat I love most about the Hay Festival is the eclectic mix of stories and ideas you can be exposed to in a single day.  On one day last week I started in the morning at a talk about Socrates and ended it with a rock concert.    In between I learned about how WW2 prisoners escaped from occupied France by crossing the Pyrenees, what Michael Vaughan thinks of the forthcoming Ashes series and the latest advances in neuroscience.  I listened to a former Archbishop of Canterbury and the director of the British Museum talk about imagery in religion, watched Simon Schama moan about the teaching of history in schools and saw my daughter getting inspired by the great Michael Morpurgo.   And that’s just one day.   One of the talks I was most looking forward to was the psychologist Oliver James discussing his recent book Office Politics:  How to Survive in a World of Lying, Backstabbing and Dirty Tricks.    I read the book a few months ago and found it to be an entertaining study of office behaviour, if not a little worrying.   According to James, the only way to thrive in business today is to learn the art of office politics.

He suggests our offices are patrolled by a ‘dark triad’ of psychopaths, Machiavels and narcissists.   The psychopaths have no conscience and will do whatever it takes to climb to the top.  The Machiavels will manipulate colleagues like pieces on a chessboard, while the narcissists are so full of self-love they’ll offer promotions to anyone who tells them how great they are.    Recent research in the US showed that psychopathy was four times commoner than normal in a study of 200 American senior managers, while a British study revealed significantly more narcissism in senior managers than patients in mental hospitals or inmates in a secure prison for violent offenders!   While the labels and descriptions may seem a little colourful and over the top, the stories in James’s book (based on real life interviews with office workers) are certainly familiar to us all.   What’s more, James insists we all use office politics every day, whether we’re aware of it or not.   We instinctively know that we stand a better chance of getting promoted if we can get the boss to like us, and good political skills will increase the chances of gaining that awareness, popularity and trust.   Simply by laughing at the boss’s jokes, asking about weekend plans or referring to the fact that we worked late, we’re playing the game.   And there’s no shame in that, says Oliver James.

So how do we survive this nasty, backstabbing world of office politics?   You can’t beat them, says James, so you may as well join them.    According to him, there are four key skills we must learn:  astuteness (being able to read the signs), thespianism (knowing how and when to act), networking (carefully nurturing relationships) and sincerity (or, more specifically, the appearance of sincerity).     There are some pretty ruthless and unsavoury characters in James’s book but he insists they are real people in real jobs.  He also believes they exist in every office, and he’s probably right to some extent.  We all understand the term ‘office politics’ and we communications professionals arguably come up against it more than most.   We almost certainly play office politics more than we’d let on too.  There is clearly a ‘political’ dimension to the work we do and the whole employee engagement agenda is riddled with tactics and behaviours that could be described as manipulative.  I’ve even met a few comms professionals in my time with clear psychopathic tendencies!   We internal comms people tend not to talk about office politics as much as we should.   It’s not the same as culture.   We know office politics exists but we tend to work around it rather than confronting it.   Maybe it’s time to take it more seriously?

Seven ways to get your line managers communicating

Businessman Wearing CapeI feel I may have been a bit harsh when I had a pop at managers in my last post.   I do stand by what I wrote – about managers being afraid to communicate and all that – but I feel I should at least balance up the criticism with something a little more constructive.   It just so happens that I’m designing a new training course for the Institute of Internal Communications about how we comms people can get the most from our line managers, so this may be an appropriate time to float some practical suggestions.   Here, then, are seven ways in which we can support our line managers to become informed, engaged, capable, inspired and inspiring communicators. 

See managers as human beings rather than a component of an operating model.     Line managers may have a job that gives them responsibility for managing people but they are individuals too.  They have the same pressures, frustrations, dreams, motivation and fears as the rest of us and research tells us that they are often the unhappiest people in the organisation – not close enough to the top to make decisions and reap the rewards, and not close enough to the bottom to deliver to customers and ‘make a difference’.   They are the squeezed middle – over-worked, under-valued and very often, lonely.   So we need to do our best to treat them with respect and understand where they’re coming from.   That means getting to know them and showing some empathy.

Trust them.   It can be tempting for us as communications professionals to over-support managers.   What I mean is that we often have very honourable intentions to make it easy for them – to package up the message, write it all down for them and then tell them where to stand and what to say (and how to say it).    We do this (i) because we want to be helpful, (ii) because it makes us look good and (iii) because we don’t trust them.   But the future of internal comms is not about controlling everything and we need to learn to trust a little more.   Make friends with the managers, help them believe in themselves, make them realise what power they have to inspire … and watch them surprise you.

Clear messages = clear delivery.   Of course, we need line managers to be well informed for obvious reasons, but they don’t need to know everything.   Perhaps the most valuable thing we can do for our managers is to run a tight ship when it comes to knowing what is important.    Senior leaders suffer from the curse of knowledge and they are too removed from the frontline to know what will stick, so we need to step in and manage the message with clarity and rigour.   Our job is to help create a compelling narrative that runs like a golden thread through the organisation – simple messages, well told.    If the messages line manages receive are clear, the messages they translate and connect with will be too.   So concentrate as much on the message flow between senior and middle managers as you do on the message flow direct to all staff.

Light the flames.    It’s right to step back and empower managers but we should power them too, with the skills, techniques and tools that will make them great.   I wouldn’t use the word ‘training’ – not to a manager’s face – because  they tend not to like the ‘t’ word, but I would concentrate my efforts on equipping them with the practical skills to make them better communicators.    Communication is an art, not a science, and like all artists we all have our own distinct style.    We should never try to turn our line managers into ‘best practice clones’ but we should encourage them to be themselves and offer them some hints, tips and guidance to weave into their own personal way of communicating.   This can be as subtle as a ‘tip of the week’ on the intranet or as deliberate as giving them a skills booklet (like this one on my website!) or offer them a workshop.    But concentrate on proper engagement skills, like listening, making the message stick, storytelling, creativity, building a sense of purpose and engaging through change ….. not just ‘how to deliver a presentation’.

Use peer pressure.   Gauging the right level of support, and knowing how and when to intervene, is hard to get right.    Provide too much support and the managers come to define themselves as a tool of the comms function, but if we don’t support them enough we risk creating a landscape littered with patches of good and bad practice, with little consistency.   This is where a bit of peer pressure can work wonders.   I always favour setting up a dedicated channel for line managers to enable them to check the ‘messages of the moment’, find out what’s going on and to have a nose at what others are doing.    Managers soon take notice when they see their peer group doing stuff that they’re not, so this is a good way of surfacing good practice and facilitating a forum for managers to share ideas and experiences.  Which leads us to …

Community action.    Building a community among line managers can help with knowledge sharing, consistent application and capability uplift.   The more you can get managers together – virtually or physically, the more they will generate ideas and a sense of purpose.    The peer pressure will kick-in and they’ll more willingly take on the responsibilities for comms and engagement.   If they start talking about it amongst themselves you know you’re onto something.  And it only takes a light (but important) touch from you.   Start by finding some role models and champions who already do it well.

Conversations not cascades.    Everyone knows that the Team Brief cascade system of communication doesn’t work.    Using line managers to deliver a functional outcome like passing on a message is not a good use of their leadership skills and does nothing for employee engagement.  And as we know, they won’t do it at the right time anyway, if at all.     The only way managers can truly engage is through conversation – a good old fashioned, eye-to-eye chat.    It’s in those conversations – and the questions asked – that true engagement happens – how are you feeling, is there anything you don’t understand, how can I help, what do you most enjoy doing, what could we do better, are you clear about what’s expected of you, have you any good ideas, what do you want to do next?   Those sorts of questions.   That doesn’t take training, it just takes encouragement, a bit of support, some self-belief and probably a dose of culture change.  Which is a whole different story!

It’s fear, not workload, that stops managers communicating

Signature:1aa0edd3f00ecb0adc8aa215f572f8061f81f2bd7ee14d34f53c48d50acdcb69I once worked for a manager who inspired me to believe I could achieve anything.   Then there was the manager who yelled at his staff and threw smartphones at them.    I remember the CEO with the charisma of a movie star and the CFO with the personality of a yoghurt.   I’ve seen them driven like Gandhi and lost like Bambi.    I’ve known managers who light up rooms and others who light up cigarettes.   In my time, I’ve worked for, followed, admired and observed managers of all shapes and sizes.   Some were natural communicators, many were not.  Some drove me to perfection, others drive me to tears.   We all know what that’s like.

Comms people often call out line managers as their biggest challenge.  Why is this?  Why are so many managers so frustratingly poor at engaging with the people they are paid to lead?    Most managers tend to think they are good communicators.   They’ll insist they talk regularly with their staff and that they take comms seriously, but then they’ll throw up excuses about time and conflicting business priorities.  Others think their comms responsibilities extend only to reading out a team briefing, announcing decisions or conducting the occasional team meeting.

I’ll tell you why so many managers don’t communicate.  They’re scared.  It’s fear, not workload, that stops them communicating.

Fear of peer judgement.   Managers are competitive and they don’t like to look weak.   They have a mental picture in their head that managers should look strong, confident and ‘in charge’.   They often become leaders of people by virtue of technical ability or time-served, and they justify their lofty appointments by talking about strategic business issues, sprinkling their language with corporate jargon and generally ‘acting senior’.     That’s what managers do isn’t it – have meetings, make decisions and display tangible evidence of their authority?   What would the other managers say if they put people and engagement above strategy and execution on their list of priorities?

Fear of looking soft.    The macho culture of many organisations mean that managers tend to consider qualities like humility, creativity and active listening as ‘too soft’.    For them, emotional intelligence is just a fancy HR buzzword and not something hard-nosed business decision makers should be taking seriously.    It takes a lot of courage to be an authentic leader – to admit to weakness, to own up to mistakes, to show emotion and ask others to do likewise.   Good communicators listen more than they talk.  They facilitate more than dictate.  They ask people about their lives, how they feel and what brings out the best in them.   They ask questions like “what can I do better” and “how can I help”.   For many managers, that’s too much to ask.

Fear of not knowing answers.  Managers, especially senior leaders, often like to avoid confrontation with ‘real people’ because they are frightened of what they might be asked.   They fear not having credible answers.  They worry about looking vulnerable.   That’s why they dread Q&As and open forums.   They haven’t yet worked out that leadership isn’t about having all the answers, it’s about knowing how to deal with the question and knowing what questions to ask in return.   It’s the same reason that leaders fear creativity.   They think it’s their job to come up with all the ideas.

Fear of getting it wrong.  We ask our managers to understand, translate, convey and ‘own’ corporate messages.  We expect them to role model values and inspire high performance.  But what if they don’t ‘get it’ themselves?  What if they don’t understand any or some of the message they are being asked to pass on with due gusto?   What if they don’t know what the acronyms mean?   You can only get so far with smoke and mirrors.    Many leaders avoid putting themselves in harm’s way by not communicating and not actively engaging with their people because they fear getting found out.

Ok, I know I’m having a bit of a downer of managers here.   I don’t mean to generalise, and I know there are some exceptional leaders and line managers in every organisation, but I do think that when managers fail to discharge their comms responsibilities it’s often a psychological rather than a practical barrier.

A story of how one CEO delivered instant change

Eye of Man in GlassesThe leaked memo from Barclays boss Antony Jenkins telling 140,000 staff to sign up to a new set of values or leave the company has caused quite a debate among communicators.   Some are uncomfortable with the blunt tone, others are more concerned about imposing values onto people and some say “way to go AJ”.   Personally, I don’t have a problem with the frank tone of the message, which states (to the people who don’t feel they can sign up to the values):  “My message to those people is simple: Barclays is not the place for you. The rules have changed. You won’t feel comfortable at Barclays and, to be frank, we won’t feel comfortable with you as colleagues.”   From a language point of view, it’s clear, strong and refreshingly uncorporate.   And given the context of bad behaviour in the bank up to now, a strong message is the only option.   But will it make a difference?

Back in 1998 I worked for a CEO who faced a similar challenge of bringing about cultural change in a global financial services organisation.   He spent the first six months in the job travelling round and taking a good look at what he had inherited.   He didn’t like what he saw.   He knew that dramatic wholesale change would be required to fix what was an ailing organisation lumbering towards the 21st Century.    He also knew that the organisation was full of fiefdoms and parochial cliques, where ‘knowledge is power’ managers would run the rule as they saw it.   The CEO wanted to pursue an agenda of personal responsibility, customer focus, teamwork, knowledge sharing, trust, collaboration, learning, change agility and tech revolution.    Some chance.    So he decided to bring 365 of the company’s top managers together for an event in Barcelona.    They all turned up, expecting the usual away-day jolly, only to find coloured polo shirts in their hotel room and a request to wear them next day for the first session – blue for Europe, yellow for AsiaPac and red for Americas.   They didn’t fancy this, of course – “how naff” they chorused.    But next day they dutifully gathered in their shirts, looking and sounding mightily uncomfortable.    The stage was very corporate – plain lectern with a logo filled background.    Then on came the CEO, in a suit and tie, and proceeded to embark on a fairly dull PowerPoint review of business performance.

Then, 20 minutes in, something happened.   The CEO interrupted his presentation, looked out at the audience and said:  “You know, when I first took on this job I thought we needed to change by evolution.  I was wrong.  I made a mistake.   What we need is a revolution.”    At that point, the lights went down, and the dry ice came up.  The Beatle’s Revolution began to play (very loudly) and the audience started to revolve (they didn’t know at the time, but their seats had been constructed on top of a giant revolving floor).    As the song played, some of the audience reacted with smiles, others began to clap but most just looked puzzled.    Then, as the floor turned 180 degrees, a new stage opened up in front of them, with new branding, moody lighting and no lectern.   On came the CEO … miked-up and dressed in a polo shirt.   His first words were:  “From now on, we’re not the same company.”

Now why did this happen?   Primarily it was to put a very clear stake in the ground that things were about to change.  There had to be a moment in time when the change started – and that time (as I still remember today) was 9.20am on June 6th 1998.  The time of the revolution.    There had to be this one moment to signal that things would be different from now on.    It could only happen with all the top managers in the room.   Now of course, the excitement died down and the CEO and his colleagues proceeded to set out, over the following three days, how the organisation was going to change and what he expected of his leaders.    But he quite rightly knew that would not be enough.  He knew some were “up for it” but it was obvious that many would go back to their constituencies and carry on as before.     So on the final day, at the farewell lunch, he dropped the bombshell.

At the point where he was expected to say “thanks very much, it’s been great, now have a safe journey home”, he actually said this:   “You know, over these last three days I’ve taken the opportunity to meet every single one of you.  I have looked into the whites of your eyes, and I know that some of you are ready to lead this change.  But I also know that some of you will go back to your part of the organisation and carry on exactly the same as you did before.   Well, to those people, let me just say this.  There are lots of good companies out there who would welcome your knowledge and experience.  So why don’t you go and work for those companies?    If you aren’t prepared to change, there’s no place for you here.”   We called this the “whites of your eyes” speech and it had a tangible impact on the room.   Over the following months, some great role modelling leaders emerged with innovative and inspiring ideas for engaging people.    Many other leaders left the organisation.  The change had begun and it captured the imagination.

So back to Barclays.   Antony Jenkins has just given his “whites of your eyes” speech, so let’s
see what happens next.   For me, the mistake Barclays have made is in their new core values.  They’re useless – respect, integrity, service, excellence and stewardship.   What does that mean?   As someone pointed out on a forum, Enron had three of these values!    Values shouldn’t be nouns – they should be verbs.  That way they can be actioned and measured.   Show me an organisation who doesn’t believe in integrity, respect, service yada yada.    Success will now lie in how they embed and role model the values, but I can’t help feeling it’s a missed opportunity.    The first punch was with a knuckle duster, the second was with a custard pie.

How to engage your middle managers

I’m a middle child, the second of three boys.   According to recent research, I should therefore be more successful, ambitious, open to innovation, empathic, well-adjusted, independent, generous, kind, devoted, balanced, confident and hard-working than my two brothers.   Well, I don’t know about that but I’ll take it!   Seriously though, a number of studies in the US and Europe have exposed the myth of us middle-borns being resentful and neglected underachievers.   Our middle status enhances our ability to keep the peace and negotiate.   The attention given to our supposedly responsible first and rebellious last-born siblings apparently gives us an inner drive to succeed, to get noticed, to rise above the pack.     OK, let’s assume all that is true.  Now let’s translate the same logic into the workplace and consider the role of middle managers.    My comms colleagues will immediately recognise this community as being a perennial ‘problem area’.   We worry about middle managers more than anyone else, because we know how important they are.   We ask more of middle managers than any other stakeholder group.   We need them to deliver and translate messages, manage change, improve wellbeing, motivate their people and role model values.   But unlike the senior leaders, who can be ‘picked off’ and coached individually, this middle community (what my old boss used to call the ‘marzipan layer’) is usually too remote and numerous (and busy) for us to nurture and support one-to-one.    What’s more, just like the middle child in the family, the middle manager has to juggle responsibilities and keep the peace, treading a fine line between ‘corporate mouthpiece’ and ‘voice of the people’.   They must support the ‘company line’ and embody its culture, whilst remaining loyal to the people they lead.   Middle managers are usually the unhappiest people in the organisation – stressed, over-worked, under-valued, constantly in fear of the chop and pulled from both ends.   It’s a tough ask, and then we communicators come along and make it even tougher.   I remember growing up wearing my older brother’s hand-me-down clothes, especially as there was (and still is!) only 17 months between us.   The metaphor translates to middle managers who are asked to consume hand-me-down messages created by others and which they are expected to endorse, interpret and pass on.  My industry devotes whole conferences to deciding how best to do that.   Maybe one way is to tap into those middle child characteristics.

In a recent study carried out by Dublin City University*, a number of middle managers in the Irish Health Service were asked to talk about a major organisational change event they had experienced.   About half chose the current top-down initiative (there’s always one isn’t there?) and the others recalled a change they themselves had initiated.    What the researchers found was that the corporate initiative came in for criticism around areas like strategic direction, increase in workload and poor communication.   On the other hand, those who talked about their own initiative were enthusiastic, pragmatic and highlighted the value of communication.    One participant neatly summed up the difference by saying his own approach was “we have an idea, can we talk to you about how it might work?”, whereas the top-down approach was more like “we have an idea and this is how it is going to work.”   Clearly this demonstrates the importance of ownership in times of change, we all prefer to be in control of our own destiny and we’re all nervous about ‘done to’ change.   But the Irish researchers made the important point that middle managers can be catalysts of change when given the opportunity to develop their own initiatives rather than pass on someone else’s.    In this particular study, they found that in most cases, the manager-led change initiatives produced many of the same outcomes that the top-down change was meant to enforce!   So maybe the lesson here is that rather than characterise middle managers as difficult, frustrating and hard to control, perhaps we should allow them to demonstrate those middle child skills of empathy, creativity and empowerment.    Be proud, you fellow mid-borns!

* Conway, E., & Monks, K. (2011). Change from below: the role of middle managers in mediating paradoxical change, Human Resource Management Journal

What’s the point of face to face communication?

As comms professionals we’ve always been taught that face to face is always best.  It feels instinctively right and surveys always confirm it to be true – given the choice, employees will always prefer to receive information face to face from their own boss.   As a consultant and trainer, I myself have never strayed from the path when advising clients.  Of course it’s true.  It makes perfect sense.   But what’s the point of face to face communication?  No, really, what’s the point?   Why is seeing a leader on a platform giving a presentation any more effective than being sent the slides by email, or downloading a PDF off the intranet?   Why are people so keen on being in the same room?

The answer is not in the words.  It’s in the eyes.   People want to communicate F2F because they want to see the other person’s eyes … and the face, and the expression, and the posture.   Face to face is a physical medium, and that’s why we like it.    Approach a new born baby (well, give it a week or two!) and watch the way it studies your eyes.  It’s fascinated.  The baby will stare into your eyes searching for meaning.   We never lose that curiosity.   Eye contact is one of the essential ingredients of human relationships.   There’s an old saying that goes “never trust anyone you haven’t looked in the eye”.   Eye contact is vital to building trust, so when our leaders ask us to trust them, they’ll stand a much better chance if they came to actually meet us.   It’s probably why we don’t trust politicians – because the vast majority of us have never looked one in the eye.   Many of us will have people in our LinkedIn network who we’ve only briefly met, say at a conference.   But why do we feel we know them?  Because we’ve looked into their eyes, and they’ve looked into ours.   Face to face communication is not so much about what’s said in the room, it’s more about what happens in the room.  It’s far better to have a leader go round the room meeting everyone and looking into their eyes, than up on  platform reading off a slide.   I heard a lovely quote the other day on a creative leadership webinar that said “leaders should be generous with their eyes”, which I think puts it rather well.

And it’s not just about eyes.  The human face has almost 90 muscles and so it’s an incredibly informative feature.   You hear about people’s face ‘lighting up’ when they’re excited or ‘looking down in the dumps’ when they’re fed up.   Interpreting facial expressions is a party trick of our right brain.  We’re instinctively good at reading expressions and emotions, when words aren’t required (particularly women).   Emotional connection also builds trust and engagement, but how much emotion do we see in the typical workplace?   We teach managers not to show emotion – don’t blink, don’t let them see you sweat, don’t admit to any failings.  We expect leaders to be strong and pokerfaced.    But that’s not conducive to effective face to face communication.  Surely we want communication to be natural, expressive, collaborative, authentic and have some emotional content?   That’s why we choose face to face, right?   But most leaders feel they need to leave their real self at the office door.   In meetings and presentations, we listen to the words but we listen to the eyes and the body more.   And the body never stops communicating.   This culture of emotional impotence has got to change, and it is I hope.   The term ‘emotional intelligence’ – the capacity to understand and relate to people – is gaining some traction in many organisations as leaders realise the increasing need for skills like empathy, creativity and relationship building.    This is what builds trust and engagement.   As comms people, we know we’re right to promote the face to face channel, but we should remind ourselves why.

The six essential skills of the creative manager

I’ve been working on a series of learning modules and workshops for leaders called The Creative Manager designed to encourage managers to be more creative in the way they lead, engage and get the best out of their people.  It’s not easy being a manager, particularly a middle or line manager, in a large organisation nowadays.   We ask them to communicate corporate messages, facilitate discussion, lead their people through change, maintain motivation, drive up engagement, inspire innovation, role model behaviours, improve wellbeing, solve problems, manage performance and many other things.  It’s a big ask, that’s for sure – and in my opinion one which requires a much more dextrous and creative style of leadership capability.   So I’ve been looking at how we can ensure our managers have the modern communication skills to meet these expectations as well as the techniques to exploit the creativity that exists inside them and their people.  In doing so, I’ve talked to leaders, listened to experts, read books, attended talks, followed the latest thinking and generally used my intuition to finally plump for six core capability areas which I think define the Creative Manager – storytelling, novelty, play, empathy, affinity and purpose.   Of course, these are not ‘new’ skills in themselves and many managers already have a natural tendency in one of more of them, but for me they comprise the six areas in which a manager’s creativity can best be harnessed, exploited and shared.  Let me explain:

Storytelling – This is the art of using stories to release creativity, motivate, inspire and share knowledge.  Of course, storytelling has always been a natural part of the human psyche – from cave drawings to Hollywood – and storytelling in business is not a new concept.   But do most managers really understand the power of a good story and do they have the techniques to both tell and encourage stories as an engagement tool?   Stories make people care.  They help people visualise and simulate, they provide context and they inspire people to act.  A lot of storytelling ‘training’ is patronising.  If you’re human, you can tell stories.  But I do think managers could benefit from a few simple techniques to enable them to communicate the company narrative through creative storytelling.

Novelty – This is the term I use to sum up the skill of bringing freshness and perspective into the workplace in order to drive up engagement, productivity and innovation.   Most organisations are logical, analytical, left-brained environments with their standards, guidelines, set processes and repetitive behaviours.   Unfortunately, these environments can stifle creativity and make office life dull and boring.   People sometimes don’t feel they have the ‘permission’ to raise new ideas or they don’t have the right stimulus to innovate or do things differently.  I think managers need the skills, techniques and imagination to inject some new thinking into the way they connect with their people and inspire them to action.   To me, novelty is about looking at things in a different way, injecting some ‘newness’, being curious and inspiring creativity by drawing out and developing the ideas that can lead to innovations and engagement.   It’s not the manager’s job to come up with all the ideas, but it’s very much the manager’s job to facilitate an environment where ideas can surface, grow and flourish.

Play – There’s enough evidence now to prove that happy people make productive people, and that people who are encouraged to laugh and be playful make more creative and engaged workers.   Most business communication is about serious messages delivered in a serious way, so this skill is all about how to inject some playful behaviour into the workplace.  When we talk about play at work, it’s not about bringing a board game into the office or putting a snooker table behind the filing cabinets.  Play in this context is about creative problem solving, collaboration, laughter, knowledge sharing and experimenting.   Managers shouldn’t be afraid of being playful.   Play is a perfectly valid and effective way of learning about the serious business of work.   One day managers will be appointed on their sense of fun.

Empathy – The best communicators make an emotional connection with their audience, but you don’t have to be Gandhi to make an impact.   What’s more important is the ability to empathise with and understand the people you’re communicating with, so you can tailor your delivery and engagement style to match their needs and preferences.   This skill is about listening, understanding and relating to individuals – behaviours that will make every leader more effective.   Empathy is sadly lacking in many organisations today and there’s compelling evidence that the next generation of managers who have grown up in the digital age are going to be particularly poor at empathic relationship building.   We need to get this bit right.

Affinity – Why is it that some messages stick and other’s fail to connect?  What makes a good message and what makes a great communicator?   This is a skill I am calling Affinity – the art of connecting with an audience so that they listen, understand, trust, value and act upon your words.   This doesn’t come easy to many managers but you don’t need to change who you are to make a connection and build affinity.  I believe managers need a creative toolkit to help them to bring messages alive, to liven up their team meetings, to inspire their people to act and to cut through the noise.   A little bit of imagination can go a long way.

Purpose – Ever since the first human beings looked up at the sky we have pondered our place in the universe and our reason for being.   Today the ‘search for meaning’ is stronger than ever and in business the desire to see purpose in what we do is becoming a critical area for leaders and communicators to respond to.   For managers, the challenge is to not just communicate the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of company strategy, but the ‘why’.   If people care, they will act.   So how do you make people care?   I see the ability to build a sense of purpose as a key leadership competency for the future.

As I said, some managers already excel at these skills and many more have the creative drive to keep their people engaged and motivated in other ways.  But all I’ve tried to do here is to put a simple framework around the answer to the question “how can I be a more creative and engaging manager?”.    I say here are six ways you can start.

Mobiles in meetings … bad idea

I’ve decided to change my ways.  The other week I was in a meeting with about ten people around a large table.    Eight of the ten people sat down, took out a pad of paper and then plonked a mobile phone (sometimes two) in front of them on the table.    I’m afraid to say I was one of them.    I feel bad about it now because I never stopped to consider what message I was sending out to the other people in the meeting (nor did they).   It says “I’m having a conversation with you but if my phone rings or I get a text message I will treat that communication as more important than the interaction I’m having with you”.    Now I read at the weekend that studies carried out by psychologists at Essex University show that mobile telephones can damage relationships even when they are not being used.   The research shows that if a mobile is visible during a conversation, people feel less positive towards the other person.   The psychologists said that the presence of mobiles during meetings or conversations affects the closeness, connection and quality of the communication, especially when the topic is “personally meaningful.”    They say mobile phones trigger thoughts about wider social networking, reducing the level of empathy in face to face conversations.   Empathy is something we should be worried about in the workplace, especially us communicators.  Managers and leaders are increasingly lacking the empathic skills to connect with their people.    With mobiles and smartphones, I’m sure there’s a macho, hierarchical element to it as well – “look at me, I’m in a meeting but I need to be near my phone coz I’m so important.  Look at how critical I am to the running of the business. I can’t miss a thing.”    In the particular meeting I was in, none of the phones rang and I didn’t hear a text alert, so the operational aspect of the meeting wasn’t disturbed.   In many ways, that underlined the triviality of the “phone posing”.    So I’ve vowed to never have my phone on display during a work meeting again.  It’s not big and it’s not clever.

Forget the leader, it’s the first follower who deserves our praise

I love the concept of the ‘first follower’ – wonderfully illustrated in this You Tube hit – because of its relevance to change communication and creativity, my two favourite work subjects.   As the commentary on the video neatly points out, the real hero of many stories is not the leader at the front but the first person to follow.   It can take more courage to be the first follower than it does to be the ‘nutter’ at the front.   The subsequent appearance of a third, fourth and fifth follower allows others to join without being noticed, eventually leading to a tipping point where it actually becomes not only acceptable, but cool, to join the crowd.   As we see in the video, new joiners are no longer following the bare-shirted ‘crazy’ leader but following the followers.  It’s a nice visual analogy.

For us change communicators it highlights the importance of working hard to reach the tipping point whereby it becomes acceptable among the community to engage with and hopefully embrace the change.    We don’t need to convince every single stakeholder to ‘buy in’.  We just need to convince the first follower and others to do so, knowing that the crowd will follow.    Of course, we want to take everyone along with us and we’ll try our best to engage at an individual level, but the lesson here is that it only takes a few colleagues to take those brave few steps.   Reaching the tipping point on the change curve is our goal, when the organisation shifts from resistance to exploration, but by highlighting quick wins and supporting the first followers, we comms people can help get people on their feet.

First followers are just as important in creative environments.   Someone comes up with an idea that everyone else instinctively thinks is impossible, impractical or just plain crazy.  But what if one person stands up and backs it, and then another?  Where’s the tipping point?   Putting forward ideas and challenging the way things are takes courage, but so too does saying “I agree” or “good idea”.   It’s far easier to be negative than positive, we all know that, so first followers are vital to nurture ideas with potential.   Personally, I think the You Tube video acts a good analogy for the acceptance of creativity at work, or even creativity in internal comms.   Those of us who believe strongly about it are the mad dancers waving our arms around on the sidelines.  But it only takes a few brave first followers and then you watch the crowd run.   I don’t care, as long as we’re all up dancing.

Why experts can’t communicate

Have you ever tried to explain something you know a lot about to someone who knows nothing of the subject?   Have you ever been frustrated by an expert’s attempt to explain something to you in simple terms?    At work, have you ever been asked to communicate details of a programme or a strategy and then been sent a 40-slide PowerPoint deck containing all the key messages (of course you have)?    There’s a scientific theory for this – a cognitive bias called the Curse of Knowledge.   In a nutshell, it means that when we know something really well, it can become hard for us to imagine not knowing it.   Being well informed about a topic can mean that we lose our ability to explain it in simple terms to someone less well informed.   The term came to prominence in the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (which is a decent read for comms people actually).   In the book, the brothers explain how the more we increase our knowledge of a subject, the harder it becomes to communicate our ideas and messages about that subject clearly.   They recount a famous experiment by psychologist Elizabeth Newton in the early 1990s in which she paired volunteers into two groups – tappers and listeners.   Each tapper was asked to pick a well-known song and tap out the rhythm on a table.    Their partner, a listener, was asked to guess the song.   So, how did they do?   Dreadful.   Of 120 songs tapped on the table, the listeners guessed only three correctly (an embarrassing 2.5%).   The interesting bit though is that before the listeners gave their answer, the tappers were asked to predict how likely their partner was to get it right.    Here, the tappers thought their partners would get the song 50% of the time.     Here’s what Chip and Dan say about the experiment:  “The problem is that tappers have been given knowledge (the song title) that makes it impossible for them to imagine what it’s like to lack that knowledge.   When they’re tapping, they can’t imagine what it’s like for the listeners to hear isolated taps rather than a song.  This is the Curse of Knowledge.  Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it.  Our knowledge has ‘cursed’ us.  And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.”   This curse is something internal communicators will understand.   A senior business leader wants to communicate a strategy to the rest of the organisation.  The leader, and his colleagues, have lived with the strategy for many months – discussions, drafts, workshops, consultancy etc – and their knowledge of the topic is deep and complex.   For them , the ‘tapping’ bit should come easy.   The audience, however, knows very little.   They are the ‘listeners’.   The leaders will want to communicate lots of information in words that come naturally to them.   They know the subject down to the micro level, and their ‘cut off point’ in terms of detail they feel should be communicated will be some way down – “if we tell them x, we should tell them y, and then we should include something about z”.   Our dear listener, on the other hand, doesn’t have the depth of knowledge and familiarity to take it in, process and internalize the many ‘taps’ coming their way.  So this is where we communications professionals have to come in and say “that’s enough”.  We have to understand what it’s like to not know something.   We have to explain to the passionate project manager who feels everyone should know everything about his project that, actually, they probably don’t.  And even if they do, they don’t want or need it all at once.   Simplifying a complex set of messages is one of the biggest challenges we communicators face.   Convincing senior, knowledgeable leaders to not communicate can be even harder.

Ten ways to find purpose in your work

I have written a number of times about how we as communicators and leaders should help people to find purpose in their work.   Purpose – or doing a job that means something – is dramatically climbing up the chart of what motivates people at work (much higher than money).    We need to take it seriously.   But what does ‘finding purpose’ really mean in practice and how can we be creative in helping people make sense of what they do at work?    Well, here are ten simple and practical ways to help you and your team find that reason to get out of bed each working day …

1. Play ‘whose purpose is it anyway’ – get your team to individually write down what they think your team’s purpose is.   Then come together to discuss and find the common ground.   Set some rules, like 10 words max and no jargon, and ask people to write what they really feel, not what they think the correct answer is.   The discussion itself will be enlightening and will bring your team together.

2. On a similar vein, ask everyone to answer the question “why am I doing this” or “how is what I do relevant”.   Or ask them to write down five words that describe what their job means to them.    Then go round and ask each other why.   Some will say ‘money’, others will write ‘fulfilment’ or ‘friendship’.    It’ll tell you a bit about why they do what they do.

3. Communicate to your team using words that lift their spirits and rouse their hearts.   Line managers, leaders and communicators take note.   Giving people meaning requires an emotional connection.   You need to reach inside them and make them feel something.    You can’t do that with PowerPoint.   To instil a sense of purpose in others you must show a sense of purpose in yourself.   Remember, Martin Luther King turned up in Washington on August 28th 1963 with a dream, not a Gantt chart. 

4. Talk openly about failures and things that don’t work out.   Sometimes we find meaning in loss, in chaos, in failure.   Sometimes we need things to go wrong to show us how to put them right.    Sometimes we need the humility to admit to making mistakes.   By talking openly about failure we can renew our sense of purpose, come together and resolve to put it right.

5. Offer praise regularly, and explain why.   Praise isn’t solely in the gift of the manager.   Let people know when you think they’ve done a good job or helped you do yours.   People get just as motivated by little pats on the back as they do for winning ‘employee of the month’.   Praise, with a reason why, adds meaning to work.  It lets people know that what they do matters.

6. Volunteer.  If you can do something together as a team in the community it can really add a new dimension to the way you work back in the office.   The feeling of coming together to achieve a common goal outside of work can have a powerful knock-on effect in terms of team dynamics, personal relationships and building a sense of purpose in the day job.

7. Be an organisational tourist.   Visit other areas of your organisation, or invite them to visit you, to better understand the part they play in the big picture and to put what you do into some context.   Context can provide meaning, and meaning will give you purpose.    Take steps to find out what happens to the work you do.     If you work in comms, go and find out how you are making a difference.  If you work in accounts, learn how your work helps keep the business running.

8. Pause and reflect.   Every now and again, take the team away from the office and take some time to stop, pause and reflect on what it is you do.   Stay high level, don’t get bogged down in detail or problems, and just take a step back.   Look at what you do, how you work, the service you provide, the reputation you have, the reason you all come to work.    Involve everyone and make an event of it.

9. Become a superhero.   Or whatever you want.   Everyone wants a job title that sounds cool to their friends, so play a game with your team to reinvent your titles.   Ask everyone to look at what it is they do (and why) and ask them to create a cool business card that sums up the role they play in the organisation.    Encourage them (and yourself) to go way over the top with descriptive adjectives and hyperbole.   Imagine your role stripped down to the basics and in a completely different fantasy world.   How would you describe it then?   It’s a great and fun way to look at the job you do.   If you work in accounts, maybe you’d feel better about having “numerical alchemist” or “bullion balancer” on your door?

10.  Be human.  Ever since we first looked up at the stars and contemplated our place in the grand scheme of things we human beings have searched for meaning.   Finding purpose in our work doesn’t have to be quite such a philosophical challenge, but it does require us to stay true to our basic human characteristics – asking questions, finding answers, seeking simplicity, collaborating with others, providing emotional support, connecting the dots, telling stories, offering praise, being creative.    Humanise the work environment and you’ll humanise the work.

The seven deadly sins of Change Communication

I read recently that recruiters and organisations with internal comms jobs to fill have ‘change communication’ at the top of their wish-list of expertise.    The suggestion was that there are plenty of comms practitioners out there but they don’t all have the necessary skills, experience and confidence to lead the comms around a significant change programme.    It’s true that change comms requires a particular set of skills, tools and techniques, but as well as knowing what to do during change, it’s also imperative to know what not to do.   Having spent much of my comms career working on change programmes, and having run dozens of workshops on communicating change, I’ve seen some real horror stories.   So I’d like to share my seven deadly sins of change communication.    Avoid these mistakes folks, and you’ll be fine.

1. Not providing clarity around the ‘big four’

When you boil it down, change comms is all about four key messages … why are we changing, where are we heading, how are we going to get there and what’s it going to be mean for me?    Without clear answers to the big four, you’ll be flawed from the start.   The first question your audience will ask is not what or how, it’ll be why.   So without a compelling reason for change, you won’t get past first base.   But don’t just trot out a load of ‘burning platform’ jargon, make the reason why connect at an individual level.    Your audience doesn’t have to like the reason why, but they do need to ‘get it’.   When you’re clear on ‘why’, work on the ‘where’ (but keep it simple, don’t overdo this bit) and the ‘how’ (at least the first important steps of the journey).   Then the really important bit … how will it impact me?   You won’t have all the detail to satisfy everyone (anyone?) but don’t dress it up or play it down.  You’ll regret it.

2. Forgetting that change is about people  

Organisations don’t change, people change.  The big mistake I come across all the time is the failure to recognise the impact of culture and human behaviour during times of change.    That doesn’t mean we all need to go and get psychology degrees, but a basic understanding of ‘what people go through’ is a vital ingredient of the change comms toolkit.   So take time to understand the change curve, how people react and what people need psychologically.  It’ll make you a much better communicator.

3. Having leaders who don’t show humility

During change, senior leaders can sometimes turn all heroic and macho, or they can go the other way and become conspicuous by their absence.  Leadership behaviour is so important, and the most important behaviour of all is humility.    They need to demonstrate genuine empathy and understanding with the people they are leading.    Saying “I know what you’re going through” isn’t enough.    Sometimes you need to be open and admit you don’t have all the answers and you have to recognise when people are hurting.   The best thing a leader can do during change is not to go on stage and deliver a presentation, it’s walking up to someone, sitting on the corner of their desk and saying “so, how you doing?”.

4. Inviting your people to ask questions … and then ignoring them

During periods of change, people have lots of questions, especially during the early days, so giving them outlets to ask questions is vital if you want to keep them engaged from the start.    But there’s nothing more disengaging than to ask a question and then not receive a response.   Note I say ‘response’ not ‘answer’.   That’s because we don’t always have all the answers (in the early days, many questions will be about individual impact, and that level of detail is usually not known at that time).   But not knowing the answer is NEVER an excuse to not respond to the question.

5. Expecting them to engage with your agenda if you don’t engage with theirs  

Senior leaders can sometimes get frustrated that change isn’t moving fast enough and they make the mistake of trying to move the communication agenda on too quickly.   But people will only engage according to their individual needs and priorities.    If they haven’t been satisfied about their own personal circumstances, it can be hard for them to get all excited about the future.   If they’ve been bruised by uncertainty, they may be reluctant to start exploring.    It’s vital to listen to what people are saying and to recognise what’s on their minds.  And don’t patronise them – if they’re more interested in talking about parking spaces than strategy, deal with it.  When they’re ready, they’ll move on to what you want to talk about.

6. Failing to engage and support the line

All the surveys say that during times of change people want to hear messages from their own boss.   Line managers are the most important cog in the wheel – not the big cheeses, but the ‘on the ground’ people managers.    During change, we need line managers to be briefers, presenters, facilitators, translators, listeners, social workers, motivators and role models, but we then just assume they can do it because they have the word ‘manager’ in their job title.  No, these people (usually the unhappiest people in the organisation anyway) need our support.   And remember, they’re probably going through the change curve themselves.   Communicators, work really hard on the line managers.  Without them, we’re doomed!

7. Thinking presentation will win over conversation

Somebody once said “for big change, use small communication.”   That means, the bigger the change impact, the more the communication needs to be face to face, one to one, conversational and discussion-based.    Nobody has ever had their behaviour changed (in a good way) by PowerPoint, so don’t rely on the big events to change hearts and minds.    It’s the small conversations, interactions and collaborations that will make the difference.   So get people talking, allow them to let off steam, encourage them to share their ideas and thoughts, have the discussions about what’s on people’s minds, bring teams together.   Don’t try to manage and choreograph every interaction.  Let people be people.

Communication is a team sport!

Spain’s victory last night in the European Championship final offers us a shed-load of sporting metaphors around teamwork, passion, drive and commitment, but there’s an additional analogy to be found for communicators in the way they kept the ball.    Think of the football as a message.   You can lump it up the field and hope someone gets on the end of it, or you can pass it neatly from one player to the other, building interaction, craft and purpose along the way.     Some of the lesser teams, England included, tend to lose the ball and the pattern breaks down.   Lose the message and understanding breaks down.   Lose the match and engagement suffers.    Possession is key – passing the ball builds trust, insight, skill, understanding, confidence and ultimately success.   At work, we ask our people to keep possession of a set of messages, and when it works well, the outcomes are the same.   Think of passing the ball as having conversations.   What’s more, players who contribute to a goal are recognised for their ‘assist’, just as we seek leaders, managers and role models to ‘assist’ the understanding of messages.    Some players are artists and innovators, whilst others are more direct and functional, just like some business communicators are great orators and others are better in small groups.   But we rely on them equally as part of an eco-system (team) to use their individual skills and styles for the common good.    Many sporting metaphors are over-used and cheesy, but you can’t deny the parallels are there.

BBC:  Are Spain the best team of all time?

8 ways to liven up your team meeting

Team meetings should be like a family Sunday lunch, an opportunity for ‘the family’ to come together, talk about the week gone and what lies ahead, share opinions and ideas and generally take time out from the day-to-day for some good old social conversation.   However, just like family mealtimes, team meetings can become stale and formulaic after a while.   So how can we make team meetings a time for exploration, creativity, interaction and relationship building?   Here are some suggestions:

Go somewhere different.   First of all, break the monotony of repetition by occasionally switching the location to somewhere different, ideally somewhere completely different like outside on the grass, at a local cafe or in another part of your organisation where the sights, sounds, smells (!) and stimuli are different.   Not every week, just every now and again.

Rotate the chair.  Just like changing the chef for Sunday lunch, give control of the meeting, agenda and format to different members of the team and let them do it their way.   Let them invite who they want and raise the topics they feel are relevant but make sure they know the rules – it must be inclusive, interactive and creative.

Invite a stranger.   In some cultures it’s commonplace to invite a stranger into your home for mealtimes.   As dramatist W S Gilbert once said:  “It’s not what’s on the table that counts, it’s what’s on the chairs”.   Inject some new perspectives into your meeting by inviting a colleague from a different part of the organisation, or someone from outside who might just bring some new ideas and stimulating conversation.    If you can’t think of anyone, invite me (seriously).

Have a ‘thought board.’ Both before, during and after your meetings, have a ‘place’ where team members can record ideas, topics and issues they’d like to discuss.  Ideally, make it visible and creative, like a white board in the office or a graffiti space.     Make it come alive, like a communal collaboration space and just use the physical team meeting as a time to reflect on what’s been raised.

Story time.  Invite one or more team members to tell a story.  It could be about anything, as long as it’s creative and interesting.   It could be a story about what they did at the weekend or an experience they had at work.  But do it properly – set time in the agenda for stories and set some ground rules about time and interaction.   Use the stories to find out about each other, stimulate conversation and explore opportunities to use the learnings in the workplace.

Any Ideas?  Set time aside for problem solving and innovation.   Have a ‘problem of the week’ you want to solve in your team meeting.   Use the time for  a mini-ideation session like a brainstorm or creative exercise.    Again, set the rules and use the idea time to build your team’s creative capability.   Over time, you’ll find you’ll start to get really good at positive problem solving.

Praise be.   Of course, just like mealtimes, team meetings should be a time of recognition, praise and encouragement.   Ask every member of the team to say what’s made them happy at work this last week/month.   Allow them to explain why they felt good about something they did or something that happened.   Inject some belief and spirit into the team by focusing on what’s gone well.

Spring some surprises.   Every now and again, do something completely different without warning.   Throw out the normal agenda and devote the whole meeting to one topic.  Bring some flipcharts in and ask everyone to ‘draw their week’ in ten minutes (now words allowed).   Move all the chairs to face completely the opposite way to normal.   Bring sweets or cakes.   Play a game.   Have music playing in the background.   Just make it creative.  Don’t be repetitive, don’t be shy and don’t be unoriginal.

Economy down, engagement up

Recent research from Cambridge University has shown that employee engagement goes up during tough economic conditions.   There are two main reasons for this.   First, when times are hard, people reign in their own personal ambitions.   Even if they’re not mad keen on their job, they tend to take the view that they’re lucky to have one at all, and so they make a conscious decision to engage more with the organisation.    They don’t have such a long ‘wish list’ they want their company to fulfil.   They put their frustrations and personal desires to one side and instead concentrate a little bit more on not only doing their job, but doing it well.   They start to show more interest in what the organisation is doing and they cling on a little harder to the ‘comfort blanket’ of their current employment.     Secondly, when times are tough for organisations, the workers often feel a collective loyalty to keep it afloat and successful.     This speaks to our need as human beings to be part of something, to have purpose.   It’s not just that people work harder to keep their job, it’s deeper than that.   If employees see their company in trouble, they want to help turn it round.   They see a sense of purpose in pulling together to ‘get through this’.    For communicators and leaders, there are learnings and opportunities from this research.   Organisations need to be open about the challenges they face and they need to do more to take advantage of the spirit of collaboration and goodwill that naturally arises from difficult times.    Recession is not a time for cutting back on communications and engagement activities.   It’s time to be open, inclusive, innovative and bold.   The workers will respond.

Time to ditch those job titles?

What use are job titles?   Really, how useful are they?  And job profiles or descriptions?   I spent 20 years in corporate life and never once looked at my job description (if I had one).   And job titles are so dull and clinical.   They tell you nothing about the person, just the allocated functional responsibility they have.   At management levels it gets worse.  It’s all about personal status, not business outcome.    How different would things be if job titles and profiles reflected what we wanted managers to do and be like rather than what they are responsible for?   So here are ten new people attributes I’d like to see in every manager’s profile.  It’ll get ‘em thinking, that’s for sure …

  1. Meaning Maker
  2. Storyteller
  3. Talent Spotter
  4. Innovation Seeker
  5. Idea Farmer
  6. Alchemist
  7. Motivator
  8. Purpose Giver
  9. Fun Facilitator
  10. Creative Coach

Ten ways to be more creative

Check out my ten ways for communicators (and indeed managers) to exercise the creative right side of their brain to develop new skills and capabilities for the Conceptual Age.   From watching Star Wars to understanding human motivation, these are real, practical steps you can take to add a new creative dimension to the way you approach your work.    My contention, given the name of this blog, is that communications professionals have the skills and the potential (and the position in the organisation) to offer so much more to improve the way we communicate in corporate life … and to play their part in building  a culture of openness, collaboration and innovation. Continue reading