The Internal Comms Podcast

Episode 51 – Why are we here? How purpose and values drive healthy cultures

In the third episode of season 6 of The Internal Comms Podcast, host Katie Macaulay catches up with communications expert and IABC Fellow Jane Mitchell.

Jane began her career with the BBC, before moving into producing award-winning films for corporate clients. In the 1990s, her focus shifted to developing strategic approaches to internal comms and employee engagement, setting up her consulting firm JL&M in 2005.

In this wide-ranging episode, Jane joins the dots between public broadcasting and corporate values, considers the role of singular thinking in organisational ethical failure, and explains why, as communicators, our job is sometimes to push back on ‘the next big thing’.

Whatever the topic, Jane’s fundamental philosophy when it comes to comms is clear: think smarter – and utilise what’s already there.

If you have any thoughts or comments on this episode, please share them using the hashtag #TheICPodcast. And make sure you’re following us @abthinks

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Katie [2:24]: Welcome to The Internal Comms Podcast with me, Katie Macaulay. This is a show about improving communication inside our organisations. My guest today is the very warm, wise and wonderful Jane Mitchell.

Jane started her comms career in live TV broadcasting at the BBC. For some of us of a certain age, her shows will bring back memories of our youth. Blue Peter, Tomorrow’s World, Grange Hill for example.

From there, Jane moved into producing award-winning films and videos for corporate clients. Then, from the 1990s onwards, Jane focused on developing strategic approaches to internal comms and employee engagement. She set up JL&M in 2005, working with clients who she says ‘have the courage to tackle difficult issues’.

She works at board level with executive teams, but also managers and frontline employees, helping them develop healthy, positive corporate cultures. We talk a lot here about bringing values to life, but also why organisations falter and fail to live up to their values. One footnote here, we mention the LIBOR scandal in this discussion. If you’re not familiar with it, LIBOR stands for the London Interbank Offered Rate. In 2012, a major episode of financial collusion came to light. Basically, this benchmark interest rate was being manipulated by various banks. The scandal resulted in several regulatory changes, lawsuits and fines, as well as damage in public trust in financial markets. We talk about codes of conduct and how to embed new behaviours to meet what it seems is the ever-changing compliance and regulatory environment.

And because Jane is a Fellow of the International Association of Business Communicators, and led the Programme Advisory Committee for this year’s World Conference, we talk about what it’s really like behind the scenes of a truly international virtual event. So, without further ado, please enjoy this rare in-person recording of an episode with Jane Mitchell.

So, Jane, what a pleasure to have you in-person on The Internal Comms Podcast. Thank you for being here.

Jane [5:11]: Oh, Katie, it’s a real privilege. Thank you so much. And, actually, it’s more of a privilege to be sitting face-to-face with you after what seems like ages. And it’s great to see you. Thanks very much for having me.

Katie [5:24]: To set the scene. before this conversation will have started, I’ll have given listeners your, kind of, official biography, if you like. But I know that you’ve done a really wide range of work, being involved in lots and lots of different kinds of projects and initiatives and programmes over the years. If someone stopped you at a dinner party or drinks party in the days when we could have those kinds of things and said, ‘What is it that you do for a living?’ How would you in layman’s terms answer that question?

Jane [5:53]: Oh, the caveat of layman’s terms. Okay. Well, luckily, I don’t know any other terms. So, it will be layman’s terms. So, I’m having our house renovated at the moment. And they look at me living in this entire building site and they say, ‘what do you do exactly?’. So, what I say to them, and what I do say to people, is that ‘I help organisations think about their ethics and their values, and their leadership behaviours, because for me, they’re all integrally linked.’ And I say, ‘most organisations aren’t very good at joining the dots between what they say around values and ethics, for instance, and how it manifests in leadership, and therefore there is a disconnect.’ And that’s all I say, and everybody says, ‘Oh, you must be very busy then.’

Katie [6:48]: So, we are definitely going to dig into that properly. But again, a little bit of a scene-setter, I’m going to take you back to near the beginning of your career, because I know that you started in live TV production. But not only that, you started at the BBC, and I know some of our listeners, particularly our UK listeners, will very fondly remember some of the shows that you worked on. So, if I say Blue Peter, Grange Hill, Tomorrow’s World, I know that a lot of people know those shows. Are there some lessons from your TV broadcasting days that you still draw on today?

Jane [7:28]: And how long do we have for this podcast Katie?

Katie [7:32]: So, you learnt a lot?

Jane [7:34]: Yeah, I really did. And what is so interesting about that learning is that because I went to the BBC when I was a teenager, because around the age of about 14, I decided I wanted to work for the BBC. And at 19, I walked through the door, fresh as a daisy. And in those days, you were handed a brown envelope (I’ll come back to this as a learning), you’re handed a brown envelope. There was this group of fresh-faced girls, must have been about 50 of us. And in the envelope was the beginning of your career.

Katie [8:08]: Wow.

Jane [8:08]: Yeah. So, you did not know whether or not you were going to engineering in Wood Green, or whether you were going to live TV broadcasting in Shepherds Bush. And so with some trepidation, I thought, ‘well, I’ve never won a raffle my entire life. I don’t know how this is gonna work out’. Because we hadn’t, in that build-up to being accepted into the BBC, we had no idea. So that lack of awareness and understanding on our part was really taken on trust. I was unbelievably lucky because I opened the envelope and it said: ‘Tomorrow’s World, Kensington House, Shepherds Bush’, and I thought, ‘thank goodness for that’.

Katie [8:51]: I have won a lottery.

Jane [8:53]: Yes. ‘I have won the lottery.’ And I walked into a department – science and features department – and it was 1979. And the reason I give that date is because as a young woman in that generation, I was full of the joys of spring thought, ‘this is great’, you know, ‘this is everything my mother’s worked for, my grandmother’s worked for’, etc. However, it was a very structured environment, process-driven. Russell Group universities were okay, but Oxbridge was better. And young upstarts who didn’t have a degree, who might have creative bones in their body, and who knew what they were doing, they were an anathema to them.

Katie [9:39]: Right.

Jane[9:39]: Very, very unusual. So, I arrived, started working on Tomorrow’s World, instantly fell in love with it. One of the learnings – back to your question – the first one was about trust, about trusting your organisation. The second one was about, is fundamentally about the way that teams operate.

So, Tomorrow’s World, live programme that went out on a Thursday night, on the second. And all of us in the production team, from the editor right down to the production secretaries, who were people like me, we knew precisely what we were there to do in order to get to that programme live and on air. And there was never any question, even though we knew what the hierarchy was, because we had a very clear goal, which was this live TV programme, (and we had up to 12 million viewers so, you know, it was quite a substantial impact we were having), we knew what we all had to do and, therefore, we were incredibly respectful of each other. On a Friday morning we had a production meeting, everybody was included.

Katie [10:49]: Right.

Jane [10:50]: Everybody contributed. And it was there over those years – Blue Peter was exactly the same. Grainge Hill was different because it was a drama. I had different lessons from that – but with those programmes, unless we were all working under the leadership of the editor, towards where we were going and understanding that and being mutually respectful, it wouldn’t happen.

And that was really, really key for me. Really key. And you, kind of, you know, when you’re young in your career, you don’t actually recognise these things are learning, do you? It’s only when you step back from it and think ‘I am still now doing that with the organizations because that is in my mind’. It was sort of unwritten. And we didn’t have to go through a whole process of developing leadership behaviours, and helping people to understand why they were at work, what the purpose was. We knew what it was. So, it was automatic, and it was human. And it was the best of all of our abilities.

And so for me, if we could do it in those pressurised circumstances – I mean, the only about three or four weeks of the year that we weren’t on air – so if we could do it in those pressurised circumstances, there’s absolutely no reason why any other organisation can’t do that, and get the best out of their people.

So, when I started working in this world of ethics and values and ethical failure, it was really fascinating to me to see that at the heart of the majority of these ethical failures were people not really understanding what they were there to- why they were there. Not necessarily what they were there to do, but why they were doing it. And for me, that made us in TV production, and the same in film production, you just know what you’re doing. And you know why you’re doing it. You know, it’s the is the business of building cathedrals. It’s not ‘I’m building a wall. I’m actually in the business of building cathedrals’. So, helping people to understand at any level what it is that they’re doing.

Katie [12:54]: Do you think part of that is the singularity of the goal? And is that the problem that today, organisations have so many goals – because they have so many constituent parts, they have so many different types of stakeholders, both internal and external, their strategies are very complicated – is part of the problem? Simply too many goals? We don’t know exactly where to focus, and we can’t all look in the same direction because there’s so many places we need to look.

Jane [13:23]: Potentially.

Katie [13:24]: Right.

Jane [13:25]: I think that the singularity – back to the that really great word that you use – the singularity tends to come around targets, financial and right operational. That becomes the goal. And when you have that, followed by, ‘I don’t care how you get there. But I need you to do it. By the end of the week, by the end of the month. I need to be able to report to the city on a quarterly basis. If my numbers aren’t correct, you know, we’re going to be having words’.

And so that kind of conversation and dialogue creates, in my mind, if it keeps going in that way, a really dysfunctional culture, whereby people are misguided in the sense that they’re guided only by those numbers and those targets. So, they’re not- so it’s back to that ‘I’m building a wall or a cathedral.’ Basically, they’re building the wall with the number of bricks, there has to be a certain level and a certain height by the end of the week.

You know, that’s not the long-term vision of building St Pauls or whatever it might be. And I think that when people are too narrowly focused (leaders included), anything creative, any diversity of thought, any innovation goes flying out the window, because there is no time. And how many times have we heard that in organisations? You know, you’ll have seen the same AB, I’m sure when you’re talking about strategic internal communications: ‘Yeah, that’s fine, Katie, but we don’t really have time for that.’

Katie [15:04]: Yes. Just do it. Press the design button. Yes. Yeah, no, absolutely. I have to ask you this question given society at the moment, and the need to try and sort ort fact from fiction and I think a degree of polarisation in society, what can we rely on is the truth. I’m just curious what role you think institutions like the BBC, should be playing today, are playing to today? How valuable are they in today’s society? Big question.

Jane [15:41]: You do ask them don’t you Katie!

Katie [15:45]: It’s my job!

Jane [15:49]: I think, fundamentally, I think we need public service broadcasting, because I think it is independent and it’s objective. It’s thorough. And we should be trusting it. I mean, there is, there are very good reasons as to why here in the UK, we call the BBC ‘Aunty’. Because we relied and we trusted them. However, back to your point about singularity and goals and so on – they need to be clear, as does any organization, as to what their purpose is. So that they don’t have politicians jumping up and down from every party and saying, you know, ‘you’re more or less than you are right’, ‘oh, no, no, you’re more right than you are left’. For goodness sake, just be balanced, but independent and intelligent. And I’m not meaning academically bright, and come up with very, you know, smart programmes all the time that only 25% of the population tune into, but be the voice of the people.

Help. That’s what you’re there to do. And when we were doing the programmes that we were doing, it was always, and it was kind of ‘communications 101’, ‘What do our audience want to see and hear?’ So, you know, we may have had items on Tomorrow’s World and Blue Peter which we thought were great in the production office. And we, you know, Michael, our editor on Tomorrow’s World and Biddy, our editor on Blue Peter, knew exactly how to capture the public’s imagination. And it wasn’t by fluff and, you know, rhetoric. It was  really valuable stuff. Which is why on Blue Peter, for instance, we had a separate correspondence unit, which dealt with thousands and thousands of letters every week. So, Biddy knew what she was doing.

If the organisation is to continue in that vein of respect and be the voice of trust, then I think they’ve got to get better at being a little bit humble. They have got to get better – they need to manage their system and process, of course – but it’s not an accountancy firm, it’s a creative organisation. So, there needs to be a balance of the two so that the numbers and the figures take care of themselves, but at the same time, we rely upon them to be our voice. We rely upon them to get information that, actually, we so desperately need. We don’t need them to get involved in political infighting. We want them to be that independent voice that we can trust and say, ‘okay’, and people do still say that, you know, ‘I trust the BBC to give me the real news’. But they need to work hard to maintain that reputation. Keep an eye on it, why they’re here.

Katie [18:37]: Yeah. I think it’s also just worth reiterating the point you made that, although it was broadcasting in its purest sense of the word, you know, one-way communication, you did have that huge department dealing with correspondence. So, you had a finger on the pulse of your audience at all times, presumably?

Jane [18:55]: Yeah, yeah.

Katie [18:57]: So, you spend a lot of time in boardrooms, working with executive teams, leaders, managers to help them, as you say, sort of help them define and live up to their values and their ethics. And I always think this, I always think ‘no one wakes up in the morning, or very few people would wake up in the morning deliberately wanting to act in a way that wasn’t in accordance with an organisation’s values or ethics or even indeed their own’. But, clearly, organisations do come unstuck. And there’s been many famous and many, you know, less famous examples over the years. When you look back on those failures, are there any common reasons why organisations falter ethically, or fail to act in accordance with their values?

Jane [19:46]: Yeah, okay, another of those questions. ‘Katie questions’ I’m going to call them now. So, and partially this is right. Organisations all think they’re different. So in, in engaging with the client and their conversation, after an ethical failure, you may have – and it is all about conversation and trust because you are put in a really- it’s a very tight relationship, because they need to be able to trust that you will give them advice and guidance about what the issues inherent issues are, the root causes are and how they can go about tackling them. So, clearly, you have to listen a lot. And in the listening, what I realised is that all organisations are different, but the reasons for failure are quite common. And trying to tell them that they’re not different to anybody else, well actually you don’t do that.

Katie [20:53]: Never do that. ‘You’ve got such a unique set of challenges.’

Jane [20:57]: And they’re very pleased about that.

Katie [20:59]: Oh, we’re special.

Jane [21:01]: Phew! Yes, we thought we were special, that’s good to have it confirmed. But ,fundamentally, what I believe ,it goes back to some of what we’ve been talking about, for quite a lot of what we’ve been talking about. There is a lack of a sense of purpose. There is an organisation driven by misguided, misguidedly driven singularly by numbers and targets. There is by-and-large a group of leaders who absolutely, as you say, go to work to do the right thing, as we talk about a lot. But somehow, and ever since I was working, the very first client I had in this world, there’s something that happens when they walk over the threshold. So, you’ve got really high functioning, interdependent people, if you will. Great family lives, big social circles. They walk over the threshold- so they know how to operate in society, there’s no question about that. And once they get into that work environment, something clicks that is about relinquishing responsibility to those higher up the chain that say, ‘Okay, well, if X says, that’s what I should be doing, that’s, of course, what me and my team we’re going to be focusing on’.

Unless you have an organisation whereby that instruction might be delivered and a group of people have the confidence and the trust and the psychological safety to be able to say, ‘Okay, can we talk about that? Because we’re on the ground doing this stuff, this instruction it doesn’t make any sense.’

So, I think there’s a lack of communication. I think there is a misguided view that the view of the short term is what will drive sustained success. I fundamentally believe, in my humble opinion, it will not. Unless we have a real sense of purpose as to why we’re here, doing what we’re doing, which is based on long-term success, then you will forever be on that kind of hamster wheel, whereby people are just trying to catch up with themselves all the time. And it’s only when they stand back and say, ‘Oh, did we really do that?’ ‘Yes, that is what you did.’ So I think that’s another characteristic.

I think that also organisations get very caught up in their own hype and hyperbole. So, I think that if the words are there very often (and we’ve all heard the words, the greenwashing around corporate social responsibility) if you look at values, for instance, the number of times you might walk into a client when we did walk into client’s office, and behind the reception desk, very grandly and proudly sit the values.

And, in fact, I was talking to somebody about this last week, and they walked into this new client, and there are all the values he said, ‘I was so optimistic.’ He said, ‘I walked in. There they were and I said to the receptionist-’ (because if ever you want to know what the culture is like in an organisation, just see how they are in reception – really good tip.) So, he said to the receptionist, ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘it must be really great to be working with an organisation that feels so strongly about its values.’ And he said her face just said it all. She said, ‘Yeah, the words are good, but’.

And I think that we know- I think the fundamental thing is that we as consumers, actually (I’m not getting on my consumer soapbox, I promise Katie!) but we as consumers or we as people who have interaction with these organisations, you can tell. Because if there is something- so for instance, we all spend hours at the moment on calls with call centres. And you know instantly what the culture of the organisation is by the way the person on the end of the phone is dealing with your complaint, worry, question, whatever it might be. And you can tell instantly, because we feel these things. It’s how we create and develop relationships. It’s instinct. So, trust it. And therefore, in organisations, very often when there is an ethical failure, you talk to people in a variety of contexts and you say, ‘if it felt wrong, it probably was wrong’. And they say, ‘Well, yeah, well, we knew it wasn’t quite right. And we knew that we were being asked to do things that, you know, were a bit daft or…’ The usual. But the fact is, they didn’t feel safe or confident enough to be able to just raise a hand and say, ‘There’s a problem.’

Katie [26:03]: It’s incredible, isn’t it? The knowledge was there. And yet it just wasn’t unearthed…

Jane [26:11]: It’s that walking over the threshold thing. Suddenly a different, you know, and if those same individuals had been outside and something and happened to the family, you know, not serious, but they felt that they needed to fight a battle on behalf of the family, or they were given bad service, they would absolutely have spoken up. And yet something switches in these organisations where there is ethical failure.

I mean, obviously, the infamous one (I promised myself I wouldn’t mention it, but now I’m there, only because I think it illustrates the point) is the Enron issue. And they’re a really good example of that. And there’s the unintended consequence of directly focusing on greed, hubris and gain and gain-for-power. So, when you’ve got people speaking up in a room, and somebody says, ‘You’re not the smartest guys here. I am. So, you know, speak when spoken to’, you just know something’s gonna go badly wrong. But it takes, I think that in those days, it took a really strong character to be able to speak up. I think more and more now that organisations should be encouraging people to speak up, because how many people want to go through – and, as you say, there have been many ethical failures – how many people actually fundamentally want to go through that?

Katie [27:39]: Yes. Yeah. It’s painful and expensive.

Jane [27:44]: Yeah. Emotionally draining and destroying in many cases.

Katie [27:48]: Yeah. A reputation that could be 100, 200 years’ old vanishes in an instant.

Jane [27:54]: In a weekend.

Katie [27:54]: It’s scary.

Jane [27:55]: Yeah. Lehman Brothers is a great example of that.

Katie [27:58]: Gone.

Jane [27:58]: Gone. Yeah.

Katie [27:59]: I heard you say on another podcast that when it comes to compliance with ethical and regulatory codes of conduct, for example, it’s about – and this was the quote – ‘making employees care enough to pay attention’. And I thought, ‘Oh, that’s, that’s really interesting.’ Can you just elaborate on that ‘caring enough to pay attention’? How do you make employees care, I suppose is the big question?

Jane [28:27]: Okay, well, I think what you don’t do – I know I should be focusing on the positive – but I’ll just focus on a bit of kind of corporate habitual behaviour, which is, for example, let’s issue a code of conduct. Because the regulations require it. The regulators want to see that we are doing it, and therefore everybody else in the organisation will sit up when we issue a code of conduct.

Okay, so you and I could now have a really long conversation about the value of appropriate internal comms, communications and engagement. Unless you respect people enough to say, ‘okay, it’s quite complex out there, the regulatory environment, so we’re issuing this code to protect you. We’re issuing this code to protect the company and to help make us more successful.’ You don’t necessarily have to begin your conversation like that. But what you don’t do is dump a code on people’s desks (and I am talking past tense, maybe, because not many of them are produced in print now, but you know, send them a link). ‘This is your new code of conduct’ and then just hope for the best. You know, in the old days people would have stuck it in a top drawer or even the wastepaper bin – that was the best filing cabinet for it.

And you need to respect people as individuals. If you were trying to convince people outside of work to do something, you wouldn’t issue them with a PowerPoint or a booklet and say ‘go off and read that and then we’ll all go on our merry way together’. It’s just not what you do. It’s so disrespectful. So, the fact is that you also cannot pass the buck. You know, so I can’t say, ‘Oh, well, the organisation got into trouble because of what the managers did or what the leaders did’, and not take any responsibility for yourself.

I’m not talking about direct, unethical behaviour and responsibility. But you need to have both sides of the coin. The organisation needs to respect and understand that people have opinions and views and do know what they’re doing. That’s why they’re working in your organisation in the first place. And at the same time, as individuals, you also need to feel a part of that collective responsibility. But unless you’re made to feel like that, then you’ll just do as you’re told, the old command-and-control way of leading.

So, organisations need to be a bit more clever about how they communicate and engage. And not just assume that because it’s a regulatory requirement to have a code to introduce all the policies, that everybody is going to bend over backwards to read it and be fascinated by it. Of course, they won’t. That’s not their role at work. But it is part of their responsibility.

So, it has to be about pride. It has to be about your own sense of values and ethics. It has to be about understanding why the way that you do things in an organisation and how it directly correlates with the success of your team, with the success of your business unit, and with the success of the company. And also understand, (as we all know, if we don’t have customers, we don’t have businesses) but also understand that that expectation and that scrutiny is there from outside in a way that it never has been before. So, you need to also think about that, about what you do.

Think about bus drivers, for instance. You meet some bus drivers. I think they have got really wise to this, a lot of public transport, not all by any means but some companies have. And you have the most respectful, charming bus drivers, for instance. And I’m sure there’ll be many people listening to this podcast who’ve never been on the bus. But trust us there are buses, just imagine, just imagine. You also see with airlines, you know, the way that people are interacting with you, you know full well that they either understand the impact that they have and care about it and care enough about it to make you feel good about your experience, or they don’t. But that’s largely because they’re not being made to feel as though they’re cared about. So, there is that direct correlation.

Katie [32:54]: And as you’re saying that I’m imagining myself being a regulator, which is not a natural position for me to be in, but say I was a smart regulator. And I really did want to make sure organisations in my particular arena, sector, were following my rulebook, the last thing I’d want them to do is issue a set of instructions. I would really want them to have a conversation around my regulation that explained why it was important, the context, what would happen if it wasn’t followed. Use their imaginations to think about the domino effect of you not doing that. So, I suppose the difficulty is, all of that takes an investment of time and resources. Is that often the hiccup, as you say? Organisations just want to get on to the next thing?

Jane [33:45]: That’s a really good question. Is that the hiccup? I’m not sure. I think that the same malaise affects regulators as it does organisations. I think that they have been – and I’m talking particularly about the UK here, obviously, because that’s where my experience lies and the USA – but I do think that there has been this hubris, this view that, you know, ‘We’re an important organization. Everybody understands that. We’re going to issue new regulations, and you better follow it at your peril’. Is that it? Okay.

If we think about LIBOR, and all of the unbelievable fallout that there was from that, and there was a massive call for more regulation and more regulation. I’m not averse (but it’s not up to me, is it?) I’m not averse to the notion of regulation focusing people. But I don’t think that it’s just about the regulation.

Let me give you an example. So, the rise and rise of ESG. Everybody will have heard of that: environmental, social, and governance. These are the targets that we are now conjoined we’ve got the United Nations, we’ve got various other bodies who are saying that this is where organisations really need to focus their attention. So, there are some very clear environmental targets. Social and governance is a bit more murky. And to be perfectly honest with you, even though organisations are running around finding ways of reporting this, the S and the G of this ESG-way of being is woefully inadequate in terms of organisations understanding what they do.

But, for me, again, if a regulator is putting in a set of regulations, then communicate it in the way that we were just talking about it. Communicate it in a way that we understand that actually probably quite a lot of what we do in our organisation already exists to satisfy that. But it becomes whole different industries. Hence, back to your point about time, ‘well, we don’t have time to do it’, you just need to think a bit more cleverly about it. The world is immensely complex. You started off this podcast talking about the complexities that there are in the world. It is hugely complex. But, maybe I’m just being very simplistic about it, stop trying to build everything on top of everything else. Shift the way that you think about, do more connecting of dots, and the chances are you’re already doing a lot of what is being required of you. But what actually is required of you is to shift your thinking and your behaviour. And as you said earlier, that is something that is way more complex than just telling people to do this or to do that.

Katie [36:38]: It’s got the benefit, the way you’re describing it, of it not being a bolt-on to something else that’s an additional responsibility. I remember once – this is sort of an analogy of that – but I remember once talking to an MD, who said, ‘There’s no way you can give me another initiative. I can’t go around this organisation speaking to people one on one, or even in groups. Look at my diary.’ And he physically showed me his diary. And I looked at it. And I said, ‘So how many people are you talking to in an average week?’ ‘Oh, I don’t know. 50, 60, 150.’ ‘Brilliant. So, if we could spend two minutes every time you sat down with someone just talking about this agenda.’ And there was a bit of silence and he went, ‘Yeah, that could work.’ So, you know, joining up the dots, framing conversations you’re already having, that’s such a much more sensible way of doing it, isn’t it?

Jane [37:28]: There will be some people listening to this podcast who came to the IABC World Conference this year, 2021. As you know, because I know you were there listening, we interviewed Sally Susman, who is the Director of Communications at Pfizer and various other additions to her title. And one of the things that she talked to us about was the fact that it isn’t just about waiting for someone to tell you what to do. In-house, as a strategic communications adviser, you need to be able to say precisely what you’ve just said. Is to challenge and is to look at things differently, encourage people to look at things differently.

And your description of that leader, I’m sure that all of us on this podcast here and listening to it will absolutely be empathetic to that. You’ll have heard that lots and lots of times. And what I heard in the way that you were describing it, I think was a perfect example of a leader sitting back and think, ‘Oh my god, it’s just one more thing I’ve got to do.’ The point is, it isn’t. It should be integrated. But you need to be able to provide them with that view, as a communicator, or as an advisor. To be able to get them to just take a deep breath, and to just think slightly differently about what they do.

Because the fact is, the higher up an organisation you go, you should be far less about doing stuff and far more about thinking and people coming up behind you, those lower in the organisation if you will, they are the doers. You’re the people who are guiding the strategy of what it is that they’re doing. You shouldn’t be doing a lot of stuff. And the amount of, particularly now I think with everything going on in the world, the amount of senior leaders who still do a lot of doing is unreal. And I think regulators also need to think, ‘okay, if I’m putting in this new regulation, how are we going to get organisations to believe, accept and understand what it is they’re going to have to do and how it can help them?’ Not how it’s going to hinder them just because they’ve already got so much else to do. But unless you are thinking about all of this from an engagement perspective, and from a human perspective, it will just be a stack of rules that just gets higher and higher and higher, and people will just get overwhelmed in the end. And of course, we’ll have more trip-ups.

Katie [40:05]: I was just wondering whether you’ve got any reflections. I mean, I was tempted to say post-pandemic. We can’t say that at the moment. But thinking about the global pandemic, what do you think the impact has been on organisational leadership and culture? Has it left you at all optimistic that there might be some sort of positive long-term changes that might result from this crisis?

Jane [40:31]: Well, you and I have known each other for many years, Katie, so you know, I’m a glass-half-full person. And I am an optimist. At the beginning of the original form of the pandemic, back in March 2020, when the whole world was apparently taken by surprise. Don’t get me started on that, but it was taken by surprise, the enormity of it did surprise everybody. What I saw in organisations was a humanity emerging from leaders. It was instantaneous.But within a week or two, there were legions of webinars taking place and meetings online that I was tuning into, with the CEOs and MDs saying, ‘it’s quite difficult to work at home, isn’t it?’ ‘Oh, I remember what it’s like to be a father again.’ ‘My children recognise me as a father.’ All of this kind of emerged. I’ll just park that for a moment. You then had an agility and nimbleness, which I loved. And of course, as we know, in the communications world, this business of having remote working, having an online forum, ‘Nope, can’t do that. Can’t do that. No, we can’t do that. That’ll come.’ Bang! It was there. Absolutely instant. It was incredible. I think IT departments and the leaders who supported that transition were brilliant. I mean, it was just incredible performance.

And then slowly but surely, as the kind of the logistics and the doing stuff was settling down a bit and people were getting used to a different way of working within their own organisations, what we recognised was that what had been valued – as in, money – was not what kept the world going. What kept the world going, primarily, the focus was on health workers in all their guises. But then suddenly, we realise, ‘actually, we need to go shopping.’ And we had supermarket workers. And suddenly, we also realised that we could only go shopping for essentials and so we need two people to deliver stuff to our houses. And we had lots more rubbish, we needed people to clear the rubbish. And so suddenly, from nowhere, there was a real understanding and recognition that those people who just keep the wheels of the world turning were those people who are, we were dependent on for our survival. And there was an increased recognition of them. And, also, a real understanding of the inequities that there were in the world.

Because these were the people, a lot of them on zero-contract hours, a lot of people on minimum living wage, etc, etc. And I think there was a real outpouring of empathy and love for those people. My optimistic nature says that that is something that we will maintain. However, as the world now begins to turn in a way that people are more used to, and I refuse to say ‘as normal’, we need to find a new normal where that level of inclusion, that level of understanding, that level of respect for all layers of society is much more obvious and dealt with by the politicians, for instance, but also for each of us on a day-to-day basis.

Here, in London, where we’re sitting, the response to the homeless issue, as described by politicians, was sorted out within a week. How remarkable was that? And now we’re finding that that was – this is back to your point about doing in organisations – that was about dealing with the task, keeping people safe, keeping COVID off the streets, but have we done enough of that to set in a long-term shift, whereby those people are more protected and helped to be put back into society. Have we put in place- have we as human beings recognised the value of all those people I was talking about earlier and do we treat people more respectfully. Are we kinder on an organisational level? I think that as long as these conversations keep rising to the top of the conscience, it’ll be okay. But we have to keep those conversations going. And if it’s not communicators who do that, as in professional communicators, then it needs to be journalists, it needs to be leaders in organisations. And we just need to keep talking about how we work all this out together.

Katie [45:26]: I love that idea of intentionality. I really desperately don’t want to use the phrase ‘burning platform’ and I can’t think of another one, so I’m stuck with it, but because there was clearly a burning platform, ‘we have to do it, we have to do it now. No matter what it costs we’ll rally together.’ Sort out a difficult problem almost in what felt like hours. But then what happens afterwards is you do then have to sit down and say right ‘I have to be very intentional about coming back to these difficult decisions, these difficult conversations around creating equity, bring out voices that don’t often get heard, respecting people that are often unseen, for whatever reason.’ It would be lovely if that remains a permanent shift, wouldn’t it?

You mentioned just previously about being Chair of the World Conference for the International Association of Communicators in Business (IABC). Purely from a curiosity viewpoint, I’m just like, was there a personal highlight for you? Was there a moment from that conference you’ll always cherish and remember? That’s one question. And then the other one is, I know there’ll be lots of people listening who are organising, suddenly, you know, what was an in-person event has become a virtual event. Any hints or tips or guidance would be great.

Jane [46:45]: I think one of the highlights going back to that BBC experience is that the IABC, as a lot of people listening to this will know, is a voluntary organisation by and large, with a very small group of permanent staff. And we had what’s called a Programme Advisory Committee for the World Conference. And they are people from all around the world. And we had a fantastic group of people, as we do every year to be honest, but my experience, obviously, is based on 2021. And we slightly changed the way that we worked with everybody, because I looked at this group of astonishingly accomplished people, and I thought, ‘Oh, God, okay, we need to make the most of them’. And, so ,we allotted or created a number of subgroups that really helped to advise and guide back to the point about listening to people’s voices. So, beyond evaluating submissions for speakers, which is a really key role, we got them more involved. And it was just like being back on Blue Peter again. It was great. With so many ideas, people getting really enthusiastic. I mean, I suppose the low light for many people was the very strange hours, because it’s the US. An international organisation, as you know, Katie, and so we have meetings at very strange hours, but even so, the level of energy was fantastic.

Another highlight was coming up with a theme that really seemed to capture people’s imagination, which was ‘It’s about time’ and it really relates to some of what you’ve been talking about here earlier with trying to encourage, as one voice in this sea of everybody else, trying to encourage professional communicators to really just grab this opportunity by the horns and think differently, feel more confident. Not chatter on about having a seat at the table, forget about that. You will find that if you do all the right things anyway. So, encouraging them to do that, and being a bit edgy with all of that. That was great fun. And we had some fantastic speakers as a result, I think ,of the subject matter and some great feedback on that.

And then the other thing was recognising that in spite of having to turn 2020 into a virtual conference under the leadership of Nic Pearce, which he did in six weeks with the team from IABC, which was remarkable in itself. What we learned from that was the fact that there was a level of inclusivity and accessibility for the conference that, to be perfectly frank with you, I hadn’t really thought about before in that very deliberate way. And we had some fantastic feedback from 2020 that said, ‘Whatever happens in 2021, please make sure that you can include those of us who may not necessarily be able to afford to fly to North America.’ ‘That those of us who have disabilities whereby it’s just not easy for us to travel or in fact, in some cases it’s just impossible.’ And so having this online forum for them was really liberating. And, for us, as a Programme advisory committee and a leadership team, it dawned on us that ‘yes, we’re attracting new people from a variety of backgrounds that we should be.’ And, and therefore, even though everybody is desperate (well, a lot of people are desperate) to have face-to-face again, we now have as a baseline this focus on accessibility and inclusivity going forward. So that was a real highlight for me.

Another one was the fact that we decided this year to experiment with three different time zones so that we could attract people from all parts of the world. And apart from the fact that I made the commitment to stay up for three days and make sure to attend, well I loved it. I absolutely loved it. It took me a week to recover, but I loved it. It was wonderful being in those different time zones with different audiences, different discussions, different speakers, and it was really great fun. Great fun.

Katie [51:19]: The other thing I noticed this year was that you had slightly shorter sessions as well, which I thought was excellent because it can be quite draining, can’t it, as a member of the audience just soaking up all this information. I don’t know whether you had any pushback from speakers, but from an audience perspective, I didn’t notice any sort of drop-off in quality just because you were asking people to stick to slightly shorter sessions. I don’t know if you’ve got any reflections on that?

Jane [51:45]: Well, it’s really interesting that you say that because, talking about the subgroups, it was one of the pieces of, it was a shift that came from those discussions. Where people said, ‘Okay, you know, we’re going to be a year-and-a-bit into Zoom and, of course, time-honoured phrase of Zoom fatigue, online fatigue, screen fatigue’. That was uppermost in our minds, you know, ‘How are we going to make this sing when people are just exhausted with all this stuff?’

So, that was one of the outputs of this group and working, and they said, ‘Well, why don’t we have a marketplace of ideas?’ So, we had- the one that was least taken up was the idea of podcasts. So, people doing audio-only. We had digital variety. We had a PechaKucha (trademarked to PechaKucha), which are short, sharp presentations, five minutes, you know, very quick. We had 20-minute sessions, more like TED Talks. That was, essentially, the idea. And what was really interesting about that was, I think we only had probably we had no more than 10 one-hour sessions over the three days. I think it was maybe six. So, we went through a very rigorous process of selection.

And we genuinely felt that we were, you know, we had a surfeit of riches. So, the standard way of applying into IABC conferences has been a 40-minute or a one-hour workshop session. So, we were really asking the speakers to trust us with this change of format. And we went back to all of the 20-minute sessions, apart from maybe a handful, they had all been submitted as one-hour sessions. So, we had- because we were focused – and that goes right back to the beginning of our conversation – because the way that we approached the conversation was about the purpose of the conference and the clarity of that, we were able to share with the speakers and ask them to share in that responsibility, to say, ‘look, you know, we’ve got to give people this variety, where a year in. Of course, what you’re saying is fascinating, but if you can’t say it in 20 minutes, you probably won’t say it in an hour.’

Katie [54:08]: No, that’s so true.

Jane [54:10]: That was the sort of the sub-heading. And they all rose to that challenge, those people. And what was great was that we had people, participants were saying, ‘Loved it. How can I can continue this conversation?’ So it gives people that appetite to have more. And with the online forum that we had, there was the opportunity for every speaker to go to a roundtable and continue a conversation. So that could happen. But yeah, we asked those speakers to trust us. And there were, there were some, understandably, who said to us at the beginning, ‘I did submit one for one hour.’ ‘Yeah, we know, but would you think about it?’

Katie [54:52]: That’s interesting. That’s interesting. You’re right, actually, and it’s the same with TED Talks. We think how much can be communicated in sometimes in an 18-minute TED Talk. And as you say, it’s that dropping off point to go off and find out more about something. I think yes, it’s brilliant idea. Lots of good learning there.

So, in March, you became an IABC Fellow. Congratulations! So just to explain to listeners, this is an accolade that recognises the impact that an individual has made to the communications profession. I suppose the big question is, what does it mean to you to be an IABC Fellow?

Jane [55:31]: Well, absolutely true. I was shocked. First of all, I was shocked that someone would have wanted to nominate me. And I said, ‘No, we won’t be doing that.’ And then, fast-forward a couple of years, we did. And when I got the call, which said, ‘Oh, Jane, we’re delighted to say that you’ve been accepted as a Fellow’, I thought ‘Wow. Okay.’

So, I immediately went into responsibility mode. Because it’s, as you say, it is an achievement. The first thing that was really great about it was the fact that it was my peers and fellow communicators who clearly recognised something in myself that I hadn’t recognised and they felt I needed I, you know, warranted and IABC Fellowship.

But, I don’t, for me, I did think, the other thing I thought was ‘Oh God, does that mean my career is over? Is the full stop?’ And I thought, ‘No, it’s absolutely the opposite.’ What it is, is a licence to, I feel, it’s a licence to give back about any question, and it’s also a licence to give back to the generations that are coming on behind.

I think that as Fellows, and I can only speak for myself, obviously, we have a huge responsibility to help engage communicators coming through their career, from the minute they start, even when they’re at university or college, wherever they feel that’s what they want to be, then we should be helping and guiding. Because between us, as a group of Fellows, the amount of experience is incredible. And it’s international experience as well.

So, we also- so I think that’s one thing. We need to find a way of doing that really well and being very deliberate about it, the intentionality that you mentioned. And I think also the IABC, like all associations in whatever industry or part of the world that they’re in, are all finding within this environment that we’re operating now that it is difficult territory.

I fundamentally believe in why IABC is here. And I think that we have several things going for us, not least the international aspect of what we do, but also that we speak the language of business. And that we can help our organisations function better in the world as we are, as we are today. Sally Sussman, back to the IABC World Conference, is a brilliant example of how you can shift and have that influence.

So, I think that as Fellows, we also can help the IABC to really cement its place in the world for the next however-many-years it is, because, of course, we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary this year, and, and therefore, you know, what’s the next 50 years going to be like? We have a responsibility for that. So, I don’t see it- I did get a lovely, a lovely glass sculpture, which sits in my office, which arrived by post this year. So, it sits there very proudly, but it does remind me that this is not the end of something, it’s absolutely the beginning of something else.

Katie [58:54]: So, this is one of those really difficult questions. And it’s the final formal question before we head over to the quickfire ones. Just thinking back over your very impressive career. How has the role of the communications professional changed in that time? And how should we see our role and our value today? So, it’s kind of really, I guess, it’s a little bit of an historical perspective, but particularly for listeners, any guidance you can give them in terms of what they should be focusing on thinking about today. Big question.

Jane [59:32]: Okay, listeners, Katie’s nodding very hard at me. She asked me backwards. It’s another of the Katie Questions. When you were asking me that question just now, Katie, what I was reminded of was a moment on Tomorrow’s World when a new video tape arrived into the office, and it was called a Betamax tape. And the majority of listeners I’m sure won’t even have heard of a Betamax tape. It was then followed by VHS etc, etc, which I’m sure most of you will have heard of. But the Betamax tape arrived with great, you know, celebration and fanfare. And people say, ‘Oh, yes, this is it.’

Katie [1:00:14]: ‘This is the future.’

Jane [1:00:15]: ‘Yeah, this is the future.’ And then we also had CDs, which were not CDs as in listening CDs, but learnings discs. And everybody said, ‘Oh, yes, this’ll be a wonderful way to train people in organisations.’ So, the way of answering your question is that a comms professional in an organisation would have been told, in the old days, ‘Right. Go and find a way of how we can use this because we need to be really avant-garde, we need to be really pushing the, pushing the envelope’ as they used to say. ‘Yeah alright?’ So, my question has always been, as an outsider, as it were, has always been ‘Okay, why?’ However, a lot of it is exactly like a code of conduct, you know, ‘Go produce a code of conduct.’

So, in the old days, I think that the communication professional would have gone off and done that. They’d have found a way of making that work because the leader had said that ‘This is new technology, we’re all going to do it, it’s going to be great.’

I mean, most people will remember the development of intranet. Moving the newsletter to the internet, ‘We  now need an intranet, everyone’s got an intranet. So, we’ve got to have one of those.’ We’ve all learned from those mistakes. I hope. I’m not sure all leaders in all organisations have learned from those mistakes. But I think, in the old days, because technology was moving at such a pace, and we’ve named just a small handful, when they came along we all got very excited about them and so we wanted to use them.

Because now we’ve got so much of it, I think the communicator has become much more judicious, much more questioning as to the value of why we introduce a new piece of technology. And of course, the discussion going on at the moment is, one of the big discussions for us all is, how do we engage with remote workers?

I think we’ve talked a lot about that on this podcast about engagement and humanity, etc. But I think that the fact is that with the intelligence that we have now, it is about understanding how we best engage our audience, how we make sure that we’re clear about what we want them to do as a result of what it is that they’re being presented with. And moving from being simply a messenger to delivering something that takes into account that these are human beings that we’re communicating with, and that we want a shift or something fundamental to change. It isn’t just about delivering messages.

You talked about this in your book, Katie (I promise you listeners, she didn’t pay me to say that) but from Cascade to Conversation. And I think that that just with the role that we play is much less about, ‘Okay, well, let’s come up with a cascade system for whatever the campaign might be’ to ‘Okay, let’s have a conversation about it so that we can impact and, you know, really deliver real change.’

Katie [1:03:25]: First of all, it’s taking a step back, and not just, ‘Oh, I must tick the next thing off the to-do list.’ And I guess then also asking the why question: Why are we doing this new initiative? What are you hoping to achieve? What are the outcomes? What’s the impact? Any guidance or advice for those comms people who fear that they’re just gonna get a pushback from a senior exec or stakeholder that says, ‘I haven’t got time for the big conversation, I just need to get it off the to-do list, just go away and do it’?

Jane [1:03:56]: I think you have to keep going. You know, it is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is permission, as we all know. And if you feel really strongly about the fact that you’re being asked to do something that is not right, then you have to follow your gut. And you have to have the confidence to find a way. If we as communicators can’t find a way of speaking the language of the leader that says that basically, ‘the bottom line is actually you need to shift your view’ then I don’t know who can. But again, it goes back to networks: engage friends and allies in an organisation. Don’t take it on yourself. You know, look at the people around you who are also going to be impacted by whatever it is that you’re being asked to do. Engage them and just be a bit canny about who you get to engage in this conversation. But make sure that fundamentally, okay, if that’s what the leader says to you, it goes back to your point earlier about the CEO ‘Oh no I don’t have time to do X, Y and Z.’ Get them to look at things differently, but use their language. One of my favourite quotes is from Mandela, who says, ‘Talk to a man in a language he understands, you’re in his head. Talk to a man in his language, then you will be in his heart.’ And I think that that applies to whatever level we’re working in in an organisation and I think that’s just basic relationship building, actually.

Katie [1:05:28]: Quickfire questions then, if that’s okay? What would most surprise people about Jane Mitchell? Is there anything left Jane?

Jane [1:05:39]: No, I haven’t shared everything! I am a sharer by nature, maybe over-sharer? Sometimes. What would most surprise people may be that I cycled across Cuba. 450 miles. Oh that surprised you! There we are. Job done.

Katie [1:05:55]: Not on your own I hope?

Jane [1:05:57]: No. And maybe the most surprising thing is that I did it with 100 other women.

Katie [1:06:01]: Fantastic.

Jane [1:06:03]: Yeah, it was. That was that was a really strong learning. Apart from the fact that you needed to train, which luckily, listeners I did. So, I did get through it. And it was an incredible, it was an incredible experience, actually, cycling. Again, you know, that sense of common purpose was that we really needed to get through this alive. And there was a huge sense of camaraderie and making sure that the very last person through the finishing line on every day was supported and cheered. Yeah, it was amazing.

Katie [1:06:37]: Wow. Sounds very uplifting, actually.

Jane [1:06:39]: It was really.

Katie [1:06:41]: So, here’s a biggie, what do you wish you had known when you first started out in your career?

Jane [1:06:48]: So many things. I mean, the list is just endless. What I wish I had known. Yeah, what I wish I’d known was how to do politics. Not that I’m advocating it, but having an understanding of it would have been helpful. I don’t know that I would have learned that at university. I’m absolutely sure I would not have done actually. I’d have probably been even less aware.

But I think that, you know, back to the conversation that we’ve been having about ethical organisations and how you operate, I was always taught by my parents to be confident, respectful, but make sure that I got my voice heard. And it stood me in very good stead. But at the same time, there are sometimes when you – just as we’ve been talking about – you need to be very sure about how your voice will be heard. And understand the people that you are talking to, to make sure that it lands as it should. And I think if I had known that, I don’t know that things would have been any different, but I think it would have been slightly easier for me.

Katie [1:08:04]: So, what book – it doesn’t have to be a book, it could be a website or a report, it doesn’t really matter –  but what should we, as communicators, all read?

Jane [1:08:15]: Well, I was thinking about this, and I have a list as long as my arm. But I would, if you want a real horror story – and this is not going to be what you expected me to say I’m sure – but the Salz Review, S-A-L-Z Review, that was written as a consequence of the LIBOR problem at Barclays, was commissioned to take a look into Barclays’ culture. It’s publicly available. And if you can’t learn from reading that, I don’t know what you’ll learn from.

Fundamental to what he found as an issue was culture and communication, which therefore informed that culture. So, even though it is an overview of what happened in an organisation prior to the problems that it experienced, what it fundamentally shows us is the importance of great communication and engagement. And I think it’s those sort of reports that I think that we should all read as communicators, because right at the heart of that is actually what we do. And if for any second you had any doubt about the value of what you do as a communicator, reports like that show you where your value lies. Absolutely, critically.

Katie [1:09:43]: Fantastic. It’s a book that I’ve mentioned before on this podcast, but I will mention it again because it’s so relevant here, Humble Inquiry by Edgar Schein. He picks apart corporate disasters, he absolutely makes clear that lower-ranking employees had information that would have lessened or even completely avoided the disaster, but for whatever reasons they didn’t speak up or they weren’t listened to. That’s also a very powerful book.

Jane [1:10:08]: Margaret Heffernan, who wrote a book called Wilful Blindness, provides a fantastic context and backdrop to what you’re talking about here. And I think that that, and also Give and Take by Adam Grant.

Katie [1:10:26]: Such a good book.

Jane [1:10:26]: It’s such a great book. It goes back to me for about understanding. So, if we as communication professionals can understand our audiences, the better we understand them, the better we understand that, you know, we are human beings, we’re not robots. Those two in particular, Margaret Heffernan and Adam Grant, are very good at just looking at human behaviour and helping us to better understand it.

Katie [1:10:52]: I’m going to throw one more in the mix for listeners. Might as well.

Jane [1:10:55]: Well why not?

Katie [1:10:57]: Liz Wiseman’s Multipliers. Fascinating, I loved it. And it’s in a very similar theme. So, basically, it’s about leadership. It’s about leadership behaviours and competencies. And it’s something that you can take on yourself, it’s not just about how we would advise leaders to behave in the moment, although that’s relevant too, but basically, her whole thesis is your job as a leader is to make everyone around you as smart as they can possibly be. And it’s a really powerful book. And for me, and I think this is relevant for anyone, not necessarily who leads a company, but just leads a team or a very small department, is how much talking you do versus how much listening you do. And I shut up a lot more in meetings having read that book. John, who’s recording this is going ‘Really? You shut up in meetings?’

Jane [1:11:43]: It is true, he is looking a little bit quizzical, listeners.

Katie [1:11:51]: That’s going in the edit. So, what would you do Jane if you knew for certain you couldn’t fail?

Jane [1:12:02]: That is such a big question. Oh, you know, thinking about everything that we’ve been talking about on this podcast, if I knew I could not fail I would invite myself to Downing Street. And I would talk to Boris Johnson one-to-one. And talk to him about all the stuff that we’ve been talking about now. And find a way of helping him understand that his aim in life, which is about himself, and certainly that’s the way it comes across to me, but that actually he could really be a force for good. And not just a force for dealing with mayhem. And coming out with some grandiose, ‘Yes, we will do this.’ He actually could be a real force for good. And I would love, if I knew I couldn’t fail, I would love to sit with him and however long it took, just help him to feel more confident about being more pragmatic about taking great decisions that were actually for the greater good. And because I think he has such immense potential which we’re yet to see.

Katie [1:13:18]: It’s just about guiding that potential.

Jane [1:13:21]: Absolutely. Yeah.

Katie [1:13:23]: Interesting. Yeah, I like it. So finally, Jane, we give you a billboard for millions to see. A kind of metaphorical billboard to put a message on. What are you going to put on your billboard?

Jane [1:13:37]: It’s funny you should ask that, Katie. Because on my LinkedIn profile I do have a billboard. And it says on it ‘Build communities of belonging.’ And I put that up a few months ago. Because I do fundamentally feel that that is what I would like to focus my attention on. Doesn’t matter where it is. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s working in a voluntary capacity for an organisation. It doesn’t matter whether it’s working with a client or people that I come across in day-to-day life.

It’s not about me standing and sitting at the centre of that. It’s about understanding that, you know, there are people who do have silent voices and there are people who have louder voices and there’s everything in-between. But how do we make more feel a part of our community? Because I fundamentally believe that that will be the basis of a successful future for the world, is about people feeling a part of a community, whatever that might be.

Katie [1:14:47]: It’s a lovely thought. Thank you, Jane, so much for appearing on the show.

Jane [1:14:54]: Thank you, Katie, for having me. I’m exhausted and exhilarated all at once.

Katie [1:15:02]: My thanks to Jane Mitchell.

If you enjoyed this episode, I would be so grateful if you could leave us a review and rating on Apple Podcasts. This isn’t just vanity metrics on my part. I’m told the way the algorithms work, the more ratings we have, the more discoverable the show becomes for other IC pros out there. For the show notes to this episode, including all those books that we mentioned, plus the Salz Review, head over to abcomm.co.uk/podcasts.

Now we have some great guests lined up still for this season: Global Communications and Digital Channels Director Maleeha Aqeel and, if everything goes to plan (I’ve got my fingers crossed here), Sally Susman, Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Pfizer, who shaped the narrative around the launch of the most-anticipated vaccine in human history. So, I’m just saying, you might want to hit that subscribe button today.

All that remains is to say a very special thank you to all of those who reach out to me on LinkedIn and Twitter to say how much you are enjoying the show. Your feedback means the world to me, and I do try to respond to every comment. So, until we meet again lovely listeners, stay safe and well. And remember, it’s what’s inside that counts.

Jump to

An introduction to what Jane does for a living (in layman’s terms) [05:24]

Earning her spurs at the BBC: what live broadcasting taught Jane about communication [06:48]

Building a wall or building a cathedral: the problem with singular thinking [09:49]

The role of public institutions in today’s world [15:10]

Common reasons for ethical failures in organisations [18:57]

How to encourage employees to care enough to pay attention [27:59]

The impact of Covid-19 on organisational leadership and culture [40:05]

IABC World Conference: personal highlights, collective learnings [46:13]

What does it mean to be an IABC Fellow? [55:10]

The role of communicators and how it’s changed [58:54]

Quickfire questions [1:05:29]

Links from this episode

Register for the AB Acid Test to align your workforce to a common cause

Check out Jane’s LinkedIn billboard

Find out more about the 2021 IABC World Conference

Read the Salz Review: An independent review into Barclays business practices

Check out all the book recommendations:

Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling by Edgar Schein

Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril by Margaret Heffernan

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman

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