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Why Internal Comms is Not at the Top Table—And What to Do About It

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 — July 11th, 2024

Why Internal Comms is Not at the Top Table—And What to Do About It

Getting a seat at the executive table appears to be the holy grail for Internal Communication (IC) practitioners.

Yet the narrative in this quest often comes tainted with sentiments of lack, victimhood, or frustration. The decision on who gets invited to the main event, or "top table," is out of your control, but there’s plenty you can do to build your credibility, confidence, and influence—and add strategic value, regardless of what seat you sit on.

Always an advocate of reframing limiting perspectives into empowering ones, here are my top six actions for IC Pros to earn the coveted trust and respect of senior leadership and get early bird invites to the meetings that matter.

1. Speak the Language of the Business

Influential, respected IC practitioners know their business—not just IC (that’s a given). Make it your duty to deeply understand the organizational goals, challenges, strategies, and external environment in which it operates.

This is the foundation for everything that truly matters—adding strategic value. From there, you can effectively align your communication efforts, translate communication objectives into business outcomes, and communicate with leaders in ways that resonate with them and enable them to take you seriously, i.e., metrics, return on investment, and key performance indicators.

Ultimately, nothing speaks credibly louder than sharing relevant business insights and demonstrating strategic value.

2. Build Relationships

Building strong relationships with organizational leaders is crucial for influencing. No relationship = no influence. Consider it a great investment, worthy of your time and, likely, frustrations!

Leaders are time-poor, under pressure, juggling multiple priorities and demands. They want someone who understands them and their needs, not someone pushing another agenda.

And don’t forget to invest in building solid relationships with the influential circle surrounding the key players, too. Often, those who hold the greatest power and influence aren’t always the ones in top positions!

3. Cultivate Trust

Trust is the foundation of any advisor-client relationship. It’s built through credibility, reliability, and intimacy. Trust is earned, so focus on building long-term relationships with your key stakeholders rather than pursuing short-term gains, and act as a trusted ally rather than a detached, tactical consultant.

Invest time and effort in understanding their evolving needs and goals, and strive to become a trusted advisor they can rely on for guidance and support. Work together to co-create solutions and strategies that align with their objectives and priorities and share relevant expertise, advice, experience, and insights to amplify your value.

4. Be Proactive

Adopt a strategic, customer-centric focus, keeping abreast of news, trends and best practices that senior leaders will find of value and relevance.

Proactively share insights and recommendations that demonstrate your expertise and add value to the organisation's goals or challenges.

Anticipate their needs, risks, and roadblocks and come armed with solutions or an open mind to explore the art of what’s possible. This all demonstrates that you’ve got their back and best interests front of mind.

5. Demonstrate impact

Get clear on the strategic outcomes you’ll measure your communication initiatives against and demonstrate tangible results that add organizational value.

Use data and analytics to showcase the impact of your efforts on strategic priorities and key performance indicators like employee engagement, productivity, and behavior change—all metrics that senior leaders value. And remember, awareness isn’t an outcome, so save the open rates, number of outputs, and intranet figures for the comms team’s eyes only.

6. Commit to Your Own Personal Development

Nothing oozes confidence more than someone who invests in their personal and professional development. Invest in ongoing learning and improvement in your role as an advisor.

Solicit feedback from clients and colleagues, reflect on your performance, and seek opportunities to refine your skills, deepen your expertise, and enhance your confidence.

Develop your own leadership skills, starting with building solid personal leadership capabilities including emotional intelligence, influential communication skills, and a growth mindset.

Get yourself a professional coach to really step into being your confident, authentic self and navigate the ups and downs of life with resilience and self-belief.

In my experience, it’s less about gaining a seat at the coveted "top table" than about earning a reserved seat at the right table—and that takes intentional time and perseverance.

So, stay committed to your goals, remain resilient in the face of setbacks, build your confidence and credibility, and continue to demonstrate your value as a strategic partner in driving organizational success.

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