Communication is not for cowards.
Advising senior executives about communication requires conviction, and the courage to stand up for that conviction.
So let’s talk about conviction. For the purposes of internal communications, your conviction is your firmly held belief or opinion about a communication action or a series of actions, which will yield the best outcomes possible for parties involved.
Often overlooked, the notion of conviction is important, because it underpins your role as a trusted adviser with your senior executives. It’s worthwhile, then, to explore the foundation of your conviction, whatever it is, ahead of time, so that you are ready for the moments of choice and advocacy. To do that, consider your work culture and environment, reflect on your experience, and stay up to date on trends. And then ask yourself: Do you speak from your gut, or do you use objective data?
Take some time to answer this question. Why? Doubtless, you’ve been in meetings or conversations with leaders, and you’ve been placed in a challenging position. You disagree with a leader’s proposed communication action. As a result, you have to make a choice. Your choice is to follow the executive’s lead like a lemming, or to advocate for your point of view, because it’s what you believe is best for the company.
But to be an effective advocate of your conviction, you need to think about the senior executive or executives with whom you engage. That is, your CEO’s personality may be such that he or she relies on what you’ve learned by experience, and seeks out your knowledge and discernment. Talking about other organizations’ practices, survey results, or neuroscience experiments would alienate this CEO. Another C-Suite executive, however, may require numbers and science to be persuaded. This leader looks to the external and objective for validation and proof. In this case, sharing your personal insights based on your own observations would be a mistake.
This is not to say that one approach–guts or data–is better than the other. The point is for you to consider and make explicit for yourself this aspect of your relationship with your leaders ahead of time, so that you can prepare yourself. Once you’re prepared, if you find yourself considering a leader’s proposed communication action, you will have a foundation upon which to agree or disagree. And if you disagree, you will have the capability to speak up and be heard, because you will understand how your leader will listen to you.
Being prepared on your conviction will bolster your courage, which will ensure that you are respected as a trusted adviser for what is best for the company.