Posts Tagged ‘David Maister’

What is it we do again…?

posted by Scott McKenzie

I was flying home from New York last week and unusually for me – my wife says I can be a bit unfriendly to strangers - I struck up a conversation with a lovely older lady sitting next to me.

We talked a bit about her job importing antiques into the US, about the parts of the UK and Europe she liked visiting and about US politics. And then she asked me the killer question - “what do you do”?

I find this question difficult to answer. It’s so obvious and yet intangible at the same time. Perhaps the simplest definition is this “We help organisations communicate about change”.

This is simple enough. But it doesn’t really sell the “value” of what we do (a topic which has been much debated recently). I found myself talking passionately about the role we play in helping leaders and employees understand each other better.

And it’s true. I genuinely believe that when we are at our best  we influence leaders to see the wider picture. To see beyond the bottom line.

We can (and often do) remind our leaders that organisations have a broader obligation to their employees and other stakeholders.

In that context the contribution we make is significant. Our role moves beyond news gatherers, or channel managers. We become problem-solvers. In David Maister’s words we become trusted advisors.

H&K’s new leader – Jack Martin - talks about this being the “fifth chair”. So just like the lawyer, or accountant, or investment banker, or management consultant, we professional communicators have a role at the top table advising the Chief Executive.

Jack sees no reason that we should not be seen as senior counsel – after all we are responsible for engaging employees, consumers and other key stakeholders. We help build and protect the brand and reputation of the organisation. We manage in Jack’s word the “public” risk.

There is clearly value in all of that. So, why should we not play a senior, strategic role?

Communications Counsel? I like the sound of that.