Image courtesy of flickr user Bill Selak

Can business leaders make U-turns?

I live in a world where transparency, honesty and truth are the pillars of my profession. I spend time with leaders crafting messages to ensure they are clear, factual and honest and we discuss and debate the best way to deliver messages that are difficult. More so now than ever the conversations are linked to change; we need to refocus on x, we are going to merge with y, we need to review our organisational structure and chance how we operate etc. The change programmes we manage are part of our day to day roles now.

Managing this amount of change isn’t easy but our integrity as a profession ensures that our role to be honest and truthful with employees, giving them a voice throughout it all, remains core.

I say all this after reading article after article about the Government U-turn on increasing National Insurance contributions for some self-employed workers. After a week of criticism for going against the election pledge Philip Hammond changed his stance and apparently, this isn’t okay either. This blog is not about whether the political decision is right or wrong, it’s about our reaction to change, our reaction to leaders saying ‘we got it wrong’ and what this says for businesses out there trying to manage so much uncertainty. It’s no wonder we have leaders worried about being honest when the public example is so shaming.

As an internal communication professional, I’m constantly reassuring leadership teams that being honest is not only okay, it is a must – people respect the honesty and just want to know the truth. I don’t believe it makes you weak as a leader and I don’t believe it suggests that the entire leadership team is in chaos. We are in uncertain times and some decisions aren’t going to be the right ones but we should be able to say ‘okay, we have listened, we go this one wrong and we won’t move forward in this direction’ without fear.

Inside organisations leaders as individuals and leadership teams are making decisions that affect the future stability and growth of the organisation with a responsibility to sometimes hundreds or thousands of people. These are big decisions, not taken lightly and thought through. That doesn’t mean they are always right, they are human beings after all, and we should be happy that our voices are heard. We have strived for employee voice to have a real role inside businesses and as we watch the public voice play out in politics, it doesn’t give me hope that businesses will be encouraged by current outcome.

Image courtesy of flickr user Bill Selak

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Jenni Field

I have worked in Communications for over 10 years and believe that getting it right can have both an emotional and commercial benefit to the business. This isn’t just about being a corporate mouthpiece, it’s about making a difference to the business and how people feel when they come to work. Working with two fellow internal communications professionals, I launched The IC Crowd in September 2012, a community based on Twitter to support internal comms people all over the world. Named as one of IOIC 30 under 30 in 2012 and shortlisted by CIPR Inside for best in-house team, I'm passionate about what I do and the difference it can make to business. I'm also the current chair for CIPR Inside, the internal communications group for the CIPR.

Posted in Editor's Picks, Internal Comms, Public Relations
One comment on “Can business leaders make U-turns?
  1. Spot on Jenni.

    Whilst decisions are made in good faith and in the belief they are the most appropriate one, sometimes, with the benefit of reflection, feedback and that fabulous thing called hindsight, there comes a recognition that a particular decision was in fact a poor judgement.

    Leaders have to be brave enough to change a decision where appropriate. However, there ought to be a wider appreciation that they are owning up to a mistake, trying to rectify it and given some credit for doing so. Far better that than stubborn intransigence.

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