The Trusted Advisor
In this episode of Engaging Internal Comms, The Big Picture People’s Craig Smith talks to Elizabeth Isaacs-Sodeye.
Elizabeth has been Internal Communications Manager at LexisNexis UK since September 2019. The company employs around 10,000 people globally and provides information and analytics to professional and business customers.
Elizabeth has previously worked as Corporate Communications Executive for the Royal Society of Chemistry, and as Tools and Engagement Specialist at Indesit. She also has an MA from the University of St Andrews.
Elizabeth describes the function of her team of internal comms people at LexisNexis as the cultural engine of the organisation, bringing people together in interesting ways in a timely manner, involving engagement, diversity and inclusion, employer brand, and a dabble of learning and development.
How organisations get the best out of internal comms
Though internal comms are held responsible for the connection amongst organisation levels and its people, how effectively it operates depends on how much senior management believes in strong communication. “When I’ve got the most out of it, or felt like I’m being the most impactful, has been when I’ve been able to partner with a senior leader who really gets it,” says Elizabeth.
She explains how, even if senior management do not completely understand certain methods of approach in how internal comms links everyone together, the crucial ingredient is to be trusted with knowledge to advise on how best to get a message across to all employees.
Elizabeth gives the example of how valuable insight of internal comms can help decide when best to release a statement or email, even down to the time of day, for it to be most effective.
Brought in early enough, relationships between teams and levels can be ramped up to maximise effectiveness – and there are very few other functions like internal comms who have this effect on every part of the organisation.
The shift from internal comms broadcaster to Trusted Advisor
There is a common misconception that the purpose of internal comms is to simply broadcast messages and changes to an organisation’s people, without returning potentially negative feedback to senior management level for review.
This can be very damaging. An internal comms person must become the trusted advisor, who can open up circulatory communication channels throughout the organisation, thus creating greater impact on how organisations move forward.
Management must ask for thoughts and input from those who are delivering and executing the plan. “They’re the ones you really want to hear about when you’re thinking about how to develop your organisation. And if comms is just broadcast from the leadership outwards, then you’re not getting that richness of insight,” Elizabeth explains. “And so, in those conversations with senior leaders, yes, you need to be polite and watch out for any career-limiting statement, but at the same time, you’re never going to become a trusted advisor if you’ve never learned how to challenge.”
Internal comms people must have faith in their ability and the reason they are there – to create a space where all management and employees take time to consider all ideas and thoughts from all angles, for immeasurable impact on how the organisation can grow.
How internal comms people can become a Trusted Advisor
Creating and maintaining good relationships throughout an organisation is key to a successful organisation. Relationships are built on trust.
Internal comms people create enhanced relationships between the people around them within an organisation. They unlock the trust needed to allow discussion and communication. They must also create exceptional relationships for senior management to trust in their ability and advice.
With respect for authoritative positions within the organisation, an internal comms person must provide excellent advice even on small movements that visibly affect the outcome. Doing so creates trust from the top, and in turn builds long-lasting relationships that allow internal comms people to provide the service they have the skills to provide.
A Trusted Advisor is a knowledgeable advisor
Internal comms people must understand the organisation throughout. This includes:
- The product or service
- The message before it’s published
- How teams and individuals operate to deliver both
Without having a good understanding of these factors, how can an internal comms person possibly advise?
Taking no time to gain knowledge will be deeply detrimental. However, the time spent to learn and understand will enable internal comms people to analyse, identify, and make decisions on how best to approach delivering a message and obtaining feedback. Thus, you can provide the accurate advice and effective decisions that gain trust from the board and further enrich these relationships.
“I was quite proactive in building connections with the different areas of business and understanding what they were doing because I was very aware that there was likely to be a perception that I didn’t really understand,” says Elizabeth. So she gained understanding, and therefore trust that she could help.
The voice of a Trusted Advisor
“If our job is to surface what’s happening around the organisation and create opportunities for connections to be made which might otherwise not have been, we need to be speaking in the language that people speak in when they’re speaking to each other.” Elizabeth clarifies.
It is crucial that internal comms people deliver in the correct tone. Without this, communication will be fragmented or distracting to its audience, losing focus and meaning.
To be the trusted advisor, internal comms must analyse the effect of tone. A highly educated workforce would not appreciate a lacklustre vernacular, whereas a more ‘relaxed’ organisation who prefers common and plain English would not engage with a message communicated in complex English.
Tone may differ from senior level to ground level, and internal comms must adapt accordingly to achieve maximum engagement and effectiveness.
Nurturing a Trusted Advisor career
To advance a career as a trusted advisor, Elizabeth recommends surrounding oneself with those who are leading and influencing within the organisation. Observe how they react and respond to organisational changes and align with their thought processes to gain understanding. Absorb their objectives and adapt your own accordingly.
If you feel you have some great ideas about how internal comms can move forward with creating greater communication, communicate them. Be open and honest. Share insights. Doing so will build trust in you and shift you from internal comms person to trusted advisor.
It’s also important for the employer to be honest about the pain points and problems the organisation is facing. This will help the trusted advisor to understand how he or she can help.
Elizabeth also emphasises the importance for organisations to introduce new trusted advisors to all the members within the business with whom they will be collaborating. It’s essential to the effectiveness of a trusted advisor, yet many organisations overlook this.
The role of internal comms is crucial today – more than ever before. For an organisation to react and grow in response to a volatile world, constant change is needed. To make that change with true support of its team, senior management can no longer simply shout orders and wait for the rowing mechanisms. They need their team to be onboard and understand where they are heading.
The role of the trusted advisor cannot be described simply as an action, but more like a creation of feeling – the feeling of connection that flows continuously, feeding messages and ideas around every floor of the organisation. And this only happens with trust, based on solid advice: the Trusted Advisor.
LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabeth-isaacs-sodeye/