by Diane Streleckis - Communicators excel at shining the spotlight on others. But they often can be reluctant to seek it out for themselves, according to Kathryn Kneller, founder and lead consultant at Internal Comms Mastery.
Many communicators have been trained to keep the focus on leaders—or really anyone but themselves. “That makes us very good at what we do but sometimes we can hold ourselves back professionally because we don’t always focus on advocating for ourselves to the same extent,” she said.
Get tips from Kathryn Kneller on how to harness your power as a leader at IABC Philadelphia’s virtual event on February 22, 2023, noon-1 pm ET.Sign up for Power and Presence - How to Step Up as a Leader and Influence Your Organization
Building Relationships: Personal + Digital
Leadership is about building relationships—something many communicators naturally have as a strength. Kneller pointed out the importance of understanding generational styles and preferences.
“It’s how you make an impact with the people you need to influence to get where you need to go,” she said. And influence doesn’t only derive from your position on the org chart. Influence can be narrow and deep – cultivating a relationship with a small number of individual leaders – or broad and shallow, where many people know who you are, and what you stand for, and want to get on board. The most successful professionals master both modes.
Being Strategic About Who Gets Your Time
“When you’re in a comms job, there’s a sense that you need to know and be great friends with everybody,” Kneller said, “The problem is that everybody thinks they own your time. Figuring out what – and who you say yes to and what you say no to, and why, and sticking to that plan, is hugely important.”
Kneller recommends making a stakeholder map to analyze where to focus your influencing efforts. (She’ll share more techniques to do this step effectively at the IABC Philadelphia February 22 virtual meeting.)
Wielding Data for More Powerful Results
Communicators who can embrace the power of their organization’s digital communication tools have an opportunity not only to help their organizations uncover and solve problems. They also position themselves as strategic leaders.
Less Frankness, More Representation
“Having a digital channel and using its analytics software lets you get a much broader sense of how the majority of people are feeling,” Kneller said.
Viewing popular hashtags, trending topics, and people’s reaction to them can help communicators see the big picture—and screen out the noise a few very vocal people can make. “It’s very easy to over-index sentiment from the noise made by a small number of people.”
She noted digital tools allow communicators to aggregate information and mine the data to spot the things that interest—or concern—more people in the organization.
How to Find the Data That Makes a Difference
One power communicators have is the ability to look beyond the obvious data sources to see the full story. One example: the employee survey. “There’s a temptation in leadership teams to rely on that data because it’s what they’ve got on hand,” she said.
A common question in these surveys is if people would recommend the company as an employer. Kneller recommends looking at employees’ behavior to validate those results—or uncover an issue.
“How many people are actually taking [the employer] up on the employee referral scheme?” she asked. “The HR department has that data just a few keystrokes away. If the answer is not many, either people are lying or they don’t know about your referral program, and the company is leaving money on the table in their recruitment process. Either way, you’ve identified a business problem that needs to be solved.”
Recognizing Your Power as a Communicator
Kneller stressed that communicators, while often not feeling powerful in their roles, have enormous power. “Leaders in organizations are effectively trusting you with their reputations,” she said.
“You have power, directly or indirectly, over how every employee who works for your company feels about whether they want to invest eight hours of their precious time to work there,” she said. The same applies to how the company’s customers and stakeholders feel about the organization.
While it’s impossible to outsource real leadership, “Communicators can facilitate it because we set the conditions for it,” Kneller said.
Learn more from Kathryn Kneller about stepping into your power as a leader at IABC Philadelphia’s virtual event on February 22, 2023, noon-1 pm ET.
Diane Streleckis is a writer and content strategist dedicated to using the power of words for good. Understanding what makes people tick and then sharing practical ideas to help support their needs and concerns is Diane’s mission. She’s applied this mission mindset across industries for more than 30 years.