Why internal communicators should emulate the envoys

Internal communicators often take on many guises – planner, writer, editor, director, negotiator, policeman and magician (!) to name a few.

Diplomat is another – and maybe it’s our most important trait. I certainly think so after reading Sir Ivan Rogers’ letter to civil servants at UKREP, the government department representing the UK in negotiations that take place in the European Union, following his resignation as the UK’s ambassador to the EU yesterday.

Putting the politics of his resignation and the reaction to it to one side, Sir Ivan’s letter is a striking piece of leadership communication. While it may well have been intended for external consumption as much as for his staff, it’s transparent, credible and authentic to the outside eye. Above all, it conveys the principles and values he cherishes, which appear at odds with others’ expectations of the EU ambassador’s role in Britain’s Brexit negotiations.

“Never be afraid to speak the truth to those in power…”

“Support each other in those difficult moments where you have to deliver messages that are disagreeable to those who need to hear them…”

“Continue to be interested in the views of others, even where you disagree with them, and in understanding why others act and think in the way that they do…”

“Always provide the best advice and counsel you can…”

These are professional parallels we should envy and emulate if we aspire to be trusted advisors. It means getting under the skin of our organisations, understanding how and why people are reacting to change and playing that back to leaders “unvarnished”, as Sir Ivan puts it, so subsequent decisions and actions are supported with a complete and correct picture.

Diplomacy is the skill of managing relations in the best interests of a country or organisation. I think it’s at the top of the list for internal communications development in 2017.


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