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Why, why, why. A postcard from Canada


I spent the other week at the IABC World Conference in Montreal. The scale of the thing is impressive, over 1,300 communications professionals from around the globe (although most unsurprisingly from North America) attending a 4-day action-packed programme with Seth Godin headlining.


The mood was unquestionably confident, with the Communications function playing an increasingly important role as organisations transform and find their purpose. In fact, that ‘purpose’ word was everywhere, with one speaker proclaiming life will be fulfilled only when ‘your what equals your why’. Personally, I’m feeling sorry for the neglected ‘how’.   


I was reassured to see that leadership communication is also firmly on the agenda. I ran a session about a 3-part manifesto for improving leadership communication, attended by nearly 200 people. I talked about how:


  1. Leadership and management communication are different. Fortunately for me, Seth Godin who was the keynote speaker, had made exactly the same point the day before, so I felt like I was in good company!
  2. Leaders need to focus their communications on the things that matter most to teams and colleagues, specifically making people feel appreciated and being honest and sincere.
  3. We should aim to build a communication department in every leader by equipping them with the tools to improve as communicators – just going from below to above average will see discretionary effort rise by nearly 25%.


It was great to see how positively this approach was received by the audience, but a lot of the interest afterwards was focused on the YouGov research I headlined that our friend and collaborator Kevin Murray had commissioned for his latest book, People with Purpose. This highlights a significant gap between how leaders perceive themselves as communicators, and how they are perceived by their people. On many dimensions, leaders consider themselves to be twice as effective as they are in reality.


Many of the communication professionals I spoke to agreed that this research would help them broach what can be a difficult topic to raise with the leaders they support. If you are in that camp, then please get in touch and we will send you a synopsis of the research. And because I’m evangelical about this, I’m equally happy to come and talk about this with you, your team or your leadership – after all, that’s what a manifesto is for isn’t it! 

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