How good are your relationships inside your organisation or with clients? Are you viewed as a trusted adviser?

Are you on first name terms with your Exec team? Does it matter and make a difference to the way you work?

I’m thrilled to welcome back Lou Robinson, Global Internal Comms Lead at Costa, to share her thoughts on sustaining senior level relationships.

Lou’s article on creating, mapping and keeping stakeholder relationships clearly resonated with readers of the All Things IC blog.

She was also one of the first comms pros to sit in my #questionofcomms hot seat.

This is the second part of her stakeholder post and will help you think through how you work and why you need to get measurement right.

I’ll hand you over to Lou…

How to sustain senior level relationships

I’ve been away this week running a leadership summit for my current client, so I thought I’d ask a few people (since I had a captive audience) what they thought makes a successful long-term relationship with their IC business partner.
Here’s what they said:

  • Do what you say you’re going to do
  • Be consistent
  • It’s not about one-off successes
  • Show you’re adding value – to the business, not just the communications function
  • ‘It’s about trust that’s earnt, it’s not an automatic right
  • Be strategic, at this level, you can’t just be tactical.

Planning and prioritisation

Let’s take the last comment first.

Imagine you’re through your first 90 days (hopefully they’ve been successful), moving out of the honeymoon phase and into the real work.

You’ll have some objectives to deliver, for example:

  • Building a new IC strategy
  • Reshaping the channels mix
  • Restructuring the IC function
  • Creating a network of communications champions
  • Designing a communications approach for the top xxx hundred leaders
  • Upskilling line managers and leaders in communication skills
  • Leading change communications
  • What is this digital thing? Please help us move into the 21st century!

Work out your priorities, aligned with the business outcomes (you may be light on resource so choices may need to be made), and then go back to your key stakeholder to contract around the strategic plan for the short-term (next 90 days) and the medium term (up to one year).

Discuss what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it and ensure it’s documented. You may find it useful to bring an advocate or sponsor who can support you with the conversation (using Rachel’s stakeholder map you’ll have identified some key people within your first 90 days).

Agree how much involvement your senior stakeholder wants / needs into your deliverables and a schedule of meetings to review progress regularly.

Which brings me neatly onto my next tip…

Measurement

I’ve seen many comments on LinkedIn recently from IC professionals stating that they are never, or rarely, proactively asked to provide measurement about anything they’re doing.

Just because you’re not asked to do measurement, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!

We would never see our colleagues in Finance, HR or IT coming into a senior level business meeting without some stats and data to hand, as part of their regular review process.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, get your measurement sorted out!

You don’t need a lot of money or time to do something quick and dirty (for example, the basic version of surveymonkey is still free). The first step is to look at what data points are already available – these may be from your own IC channels or from other activities such as the annual employee survey or pulse check.

Work out how to distil the data into a brief snapshot that can be shared and repeated – I like to do something quarterly.

If you can get it all onto one slide then even better (senior stakeholders often have short time and attention spans – don’t make it difficult for them to digest). I then supplement the snapshot with specific measurement (qualitative and quantitative) for major deliverables on the plan.

When it comes to the end of your first year and you’re looking at what you’ve achieved (you may have a bonus in mind) you want to be able to demonstrate business and communication outcomes, not just activity.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: How to measure communication.

Continue building your network

Remember those senior people who you put in the ‘Inform Later’ box on your stakeholder map? Some of them might be quite influential and useful to you – don’t forget about them.

It’s easy to focus on primary stakeholder relationships early on, but you never know when you may suddenly get thrown together with someone, to deliver a new business outcome.

Wouldn’t it be great if they already know you’re an expert and they trust you? Even better if they’ll talk positively to other people about your skills.

Find time to nurture wider relationships along with that of your main stakeholder – an obvious starting point is their direct reports. Support can come from unexpected places – quite often from the Finance team!

Ultimately, you’re working towards building a relationship of trust, founded on solid strategic delivery, demonstrated through measurement of business and communication outcomes.

Once trust is earnt, you may well have the opportunity to coach and guide your stakeholder in their own leadership communications – something that for me is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

Post author: Lou Robinson.

Thank you Lou. Was this useful? How do you maintain and sustain senior level relationships?

If you have a story to share, do check out my guest article guidelines and let me know if you’d like to write for my blog.

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First published on the All Things IC blog 7 March 2017.