Internal communication – is it a magic answer?

browningyork Communication lessons, Engagement, General communication

A photo of a magician's gloved hands holding a top hat and a wandIt’s an interesting point that in so many cases once a manager ‘sees the light’ and realises that communicating with internal stakeholders is central to the success of their work, they seem to think that’s enough. They believe they have found the magic answer they were looking for.

“We’ve ticked the internal communications box, job’s done.”

Well, no, not quite….

Similarly, management teams (and others) tell me on a regular basis how important communication is, apparently thinking that saying the words is enough on its own.

“Oh yes, internal communication… very important, very important!”

But there need to be actions that back up these words….

Pertinent questions
As a professional communicator, I believe that part of my role working with a project team is to listen to what they’re telling me and ask the pertinent questions they often can’t even see are there.

So, for example, they might tell me how much easier a system will make the lives of people who work in the Finance department. ‘And how will it help me if I work in HR?’ I ask.

Cue a range of facial expressions along the lines of ‘I don’t know’, ‘I hadn’t thought of that’, ‘It won’t’.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes and ears and a new perspective is just what’s needed. If they go away and find me an answer, then their project is improved, as well as their communication.

Bad decisions
In many cases, the expectation can be that internal communication will make everything alright. But bad decisions are still bad decisions, however effectively they are communicated.

If a project team does not understand how the rest of their organisation works or is not well organised, with fundamental ways of working which are problematic, there is only so much that can be done with the communications.

Bad timing
Similarly, if there are problems with timing, communication can’t put that right. No matter how beautifully crafted and engaging an e-mail is, if it arrives the day before you want your audience to act, don’t be surprised if they don’t get on board straight away. They probably need more time to process the information, and they might have been blown off course by reacting to your lack of awareness of their world and time pressures.

In situations where bad timing genuinely can’t be avoided (and I would argue there are very few of those), effective communication can help you to mitigate the fall out by being open, honest and recognsising the issue rather than ignoring it. Again, good project management will have enabled you to identify the situation and work out how to deal with it well.

So internal communication is many things – vital, culture-changing, worthwhile etc etc – but a magic answer it is not!

If you need some help identifying what is the magic answer to make communication more effective and your organisaiton, please do get in touch.

Until next time
Sarah