AB Thinks  →  19th June 2019

Are you coddiwompling?

Yes, it’s a real word. It means to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination and it captured the audience at yesterday’s AB Thinks Live event in London. The first of 2019 and the third I’ve hosted for AB, who run the event twice a year in June and December.

The theme for the afternoon was ‘being brilliant’ and we kicked off with some insights into industry trends. We interrogated a panel of experts on topics such as transformation, trust, line manager skills and digital adoption. This was followed by an interview with Patisserie Valerie’s retail MD Paolo Peretti, which was recorded on stage for a bonus episode of The Internal Comms Podcast with Katie Macaulay.

There was a lot of content packed into the two-hour event. Here are the key themes I’m taking back to my desk and I hope they help you at yours.

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should
I loved this question, which was put to the panel when we chatted about the use of technology in the workplace. It’s a valid question and we have to ask whether the use of digital is always right for the organisation and audience.

Deal with the real issues before you launch a campaign
It was refreshing to hear the need to focus on the pain points before getting into vision/mission stuff. This is so true, especially when your audience is remote from HQ. A challenge for many in internal communications, as the vision/mission content is usually what leadership want to focus on first.

Help leaders see the story
During times of change we need to make sure we are helping senior leaders understand how it all fits together. If we don’t take time to do this, we can’t work together to bring employees on the journey. While this can be difficult, it’s important to invest time in the strategic thinking that is often needed.

It’s important to listen when you’re building trust
Not just to listen, but to listen and absorb what is being said. Identify influencers in your organisation that can help you.

Stop picking up the mess
This was a great quote from Martin Fitzpatrick, from B&Q: “If we continue to allow IT to lead, we will always be picking up the mess.” To provide some context, this was around Office 365 and the introduction of tech that has a communication element (Salesforce and Chatter). While it might ruffle some feathers, it feels like it summarises issues I’m hearing weekly from communication teams.

Consider the power in your organisation
Where does it sit? When it comes to communication inside your organisation, is it a case of power over or power with? This came to mind after it was mentioned that an HQ had been renamed the Store Support Office. I recently read Brene Browne’s Dare to Lead book where she talks about power and where it sits – well worth a read.

Face-to-face remains king
If you want to engage line managers, it has to be face-to-face. In some organisations going through transformation face-to-face communication has led to a 50 per cent increase in engagement despite the workforce being remote or deskless. It’s doable, if it is a priority and important for the organisation to succeed.

Employees as marketeers – terrifying or exciting?
Pretty much somewhere in the middle! The main thing is to have a clear purpose, be bold and connected with trust at the core. Explore making them internal advocates before going external.

If it doesn’t exist today, why would I create it?
I love this question that Paolo talked about in his interview. It’s his way of exploring organisational purpose and his own passion for a brand. The way he talked about the reason for Patisserie Valerie was an easily visualised experience and it got a few of us thinking about our own organisations – don’t underestimate the experience that is being created, it’s not always about the functional.

There is probably more I could write, and my brain is still whizzing around with quotes and comments I heard yesterday. It was wonderful to see so many communicators taking time out of the day to day to invest in themselves for the afternoon.

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