AB Thinks  →  30th September 2019

‘Change Maker’ lessons

Winning the accolade of ‘Change Maker’ at this year’s Institute of Internal Communication Awards of Excellence prompted Katie Macaulay to consider what she has really learned in her 30-year IC career.

According to the Urban Dictionary a change maker is someone “who desires change in the world and, by gathering knowledge and resources, makes that change happen”. It’s true, I do have a penchant for ferreting out information – hence the launch of The Internal Comms Podcast, which is really just an excuse to ask interesting people probing questions.

As for making change happen, that is always a team effort as having a good idea is vastly easier than implementing it. That said, the award has prompted me to consider what I’ve learned in a 30-year career in internal communication that’s worth sharing. Some are lessons, others are principals and a few just Katie-isms.

#1 Never mistake busy for productive. They are often opposites.

#2 Failure is not the antithesis of success. It is often one step closer to it.

#3 Employees do not owe us their attention – we have to earn it. And, that’s getting harder.

#4 As IC pros, we have knowledge and insight about our audience other comms pros only dream of having about theirs.

#5 I have never had a good idea sat at my desk. If you’re stuck, change the stimulus.

#6 Your inbox is mostly someone else’s agenda. Set your own agenda for the day.

#7 Don’t take short cuts. Too often they take too long and cost too much.

#8 No one ever read their child bedtime content. We love and remember stories.

#9 Understand the rules of grammar. Then break and bend them with a knowing, wry smile. Your aim is to create connection not impress punctuation pedants.

#10 No doubt your organisation has a customer insight team. What about its employee insight department? Don’t overlook the wisdom that surrounds you.

#11 Culture is not a poster on a wall. It is not a set of values in a handbook. It is how we behave when no one is looking.

#12 Do not be held back by an organogram. You might not have the authority to do it, but could you be given the responsibility?

#13 Curiosity is your best defence against obsolescence.

#14 With measurement, never confuse satisfaction with effectiveness.

#15 In the future, internal communication will move from interruption to permission – content that is anticipated, relevant and personal.

#16 Remember, as soon as you have placed someone into a pigeon-hole, they will seek to fly straight out of it. Question stereotypes.

#17 A deep, meaningful connection with a few is vastly more valuable than being instantly forgotten by the many.

#18 Those who listen harder, learn more.

#19 Social is a behaviour, not a tool. Why is no one commenting on your CEO’s blog? When did she or he comment last on someone else’s?

#20 In good research, the method should be a message. Make people feel heard. Conversely, if you don’t want to know, don’t ask.

#21 Using long words and complex jargon never made anyone sound clever. The brightest people distil complex ideas into their simplest form.

#22 Invest in your career and seek inspiration daily.

#23 You cannot change someone’s behaviour unless you know what is driving it.

#24 The braver the editorial decision, the more compelling the content.

#25 Meditate.