Winning senior leaders over is critical

Getting senior management support for your strategy is critical. Support isn’t just getting it agreed by the management team and then you going off and delivering it. It’s making the strategy integral to the success of the organisation. The only way you can do this is to squarely link it to your organisation’s business strategy, and then clearly show how your internal communications activity is supporting and helping to deliver this.

A recent Deloitte survey showed that 95 percent of chief executives said internal communications was important to the success of their organisation. The bad news was only 22 percent thought it was being delivered well.

What’s in it for leaders?

Change is a constant for all organisations; with the average gap between restructures about 18 months. There is no ‘steady state’ anymore, only constant flux, with organisations needing to be more agile and innovative to succeed. This makes it even more important for employees to have trust in their leaders, and confidence they can deliver and manage the change. See the ‘Change communications’ chapter

You will know there has been a marked shift in public trust over the last decade, based on a series of high-profile public and private sector scandals. This has seen the public become more cynical and lose confidence in the decisions made by politicians and businesses, and the reporting in tabloids. This shift from ‘deference to reference’ has been accelerated by the rapid growth of the internet and increasing popularity of social networking.

This change has spread its way into the workplace, which poses additional challenges for senior leaders and internal communicators when trying to shape an authentic narrative and build trust. Research shows only 51 per cent of employees have trust and confidence in the senior leadership of their companies and only 44 per cent believe senior leaders are trying to do their best for their employees. (From Quirke, 2008: 109)

Getting senior support for internal communications is critical. So what are leaders looking for? This interview with the Department of Transport’s Permanent Secretary, Philip Rutman, explores these issues and provides valuable advice.