Commitments for 2012

A wise person once told me that when we want to change a behavior we only have three days window of opportunity. If we fail to start making small changes within three days, any resolution to change will instead fade away and turn into a broken resolution. “Do you really want to stop smoking?” he asked. “You stop smoking tomorrow morning and every morning after that.”

It really doesn’t matter if you try to break a habit or aim at a smaller improvement. The main thing is that you need to start making the change, now. Not next week or early in March when the gym is less crowded.

How could you kick start a different way of working with internal communications? Sue Dewhurst is suggesting eight resolutions for 2012 that could make a difference. Sue is a seasoned internal communications practitioner and much appreciated Black Belt trainer.Sue Dewhurst

1. Think of outcome, not output
Focus on business outcomes, not simply on producing communication collateral. Use communication as a means to an end, not an end in itself. There’s a big difference between saying “who’s got some stories for this month’s team brief?” and asking “what’s the most important challenge for our organization this month? How can we use the team-briefing time to address it?”

Resolve to ask your internal customers what their most pressing business goal is for 2012. Next, ask what employees need to know, feel and do differently to help meet that goal. Then, work out what you as a communicator can do to help increase people’s knowledge or understanding, influence their opinions and motivate them to take action.

2. Be a better business person
Find out more about your industry, your organization’s plan for the coming year and the opportunities and challenges that may lie ahead. Get to know the most important performance measures and make sure you’re up to date on the results. Increase your business knowledge and you’ll enhance your credibility too.

3. Choose tactics that’ll actually work
Think about the last time you changed your opinion about something. Or a recent occasion when you were motivated to take action. Were you prompted by reading a web article? Or were you influenced perhaps by conversations with trusted friends or colleagues? Perhaps you heard a personal story that made you think? Next time you choose the tactics for a communication plan, don’t just fall into your usual habits. Think about what you can do that has some chance of impacting attitudes or behaviors.

4. Get to know employees better
This year, resolve to spend less time at your desk and more time out there understanding what employees care about, who and what they listen to and trust, what’s getting in the way of them doing their jobs and how you can help. Ask their advice when you’re choosing communication tactics. Test out approaches before you put them into action. And get to know when a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t good enough.

5. Speak like real people
Please let this year be the one where we stop spouting meaningless corporate jargon. Talking about “streamlining operational propositions” or “moving forward with world class efficiencies” will only serve to drive a bigger gap between leaders and employees. Be the person who asks the stupid questions about what things really mean. And be aware when you really are becoming a spin doctor, in danger of fudging the facts and trying to put a positive slant on events, when the right thing would be to tell it as it is.

6. Measure something that matters
So employees like your newsletter and you know what the hit rates were on your last intranet article. What difference does it make? Go back to the business goal you were trying to achieve. What actions were you trying to influence people to take to move the organization nearer to the goal? In what way were you inviting them to reconsider their attitudes? Where were you aiming to increase their knowledge? Find out whether you succeeded and how much of a difference you made. Measure activities that actually have an impact on business results.

7. Ask what you can do differently to increase your influence
Next time you find yourself complaining your leader isn’t listening to you or won’t do what you want, don’t focus on that list of 10 things you wish they’d do differently. Ask yourself what you’re doing that’s contributing to the situation. Find at least one thing you could do differently to improve it. Start by looking at things from their perspective. If you were them, why would you be behaving this way? What would be leading you to think as you do? And what could that person in the internal communication team do to help make things easier?

8. Make this year count
Probably the biggest thing I’ve learnt over the years is that there’s a difference between “being busy” and using communication to achieve a result and actually getting a result for your organization and the people in it. If your leaders question whether you’re adding value, to be honest, there’s probably a reason for it. Make this the year you can say you made a positive difference.”

This blog posting was originally developed for Melcrum’s internal communications hub.