A question of comms: Lesley Crook

What is the best career advice you’ve benefitted from? Lesley Crook is the latest practitioner to sit in my #questionofcomms hot seat.

She’s an independent consultant and the founder of Working Out Loud in A Network (#wolan).

Discover her career path, some cracking book recommendations and what Lesley couldn’t do her job without.

You can find her on Twitter @lesley_wolan. I’ll hand you over to her…

1. When did you know internal communication was what you wanted to do?

My journey to IC is a story of tenacious personal development and helping to improve the way we work by giving employees an empowered voice. I joined Glaxo, a global healthcare company, in 1991 as a secretary in Manufacturing Strategic Planning.

I used a huge WANG computer with floppy disks, plotter printers for OHP. Emails were replacing the Fax. “Surfing the Internet” became a new idiom. Curious to find ways to speed up mundane office tasks and help my VP reach senior management and employees at 50 factories – little did I know I was actually being an internal communicator!

My role included typing long strategy reports, arranging international meetings, heavy-duty email cascades, managing massive distribution lists and distributing vast amounts of international correspondence – fast and accurately.

Nine years later, on the back of my extensive business area knowledge I was promoted. I joined a new team, Manufacturing Internal Comms who reported to HR. I helped a VP establish the new team.

After an intensive 1:1 week of training I went on to create some of the company’s first Microsoft FrontPage intranets and was quickly known as #webwizard or rather #webwitch.

2. What do you like most about working in this field?

18 years later, still curious on how to speed up laborious office tasks and give employees an empowered voice, I became passionate about Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) and appointed Corporate Comms Yammer Community Manager #yammernana.

Five years later I am now an independent digital transformation consultant, helping companies to cut down email trees and work like a network.

(Lesley has also recently been awarded the title of Most Valuable Professional, Office Servers and Services by Microsoft, joining their MVP’s around the world – Rachel).

3. What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?

Over the years. I’ve had excellent open-minded IC line managers who nurtured my curious mind by gently pushing me in the right personal development direction with Lean Sigma, CIPR Diploma and strategic communication courses that proved to be challenging but worth it as now IC/KM/OD hybrid with digital transformation know-how #intrapreneur.

Great advice – Read everything that comes in front of you. Don’t spend any IC budget!

4. What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a career in comms?

Join a comms association like IABC, CIPR or IoIC to network and build international relationships.

Get your head round Twitter – follow like-minded people, learn from them, advocate what they are doing – you will learn a lot very quickly! Don’t be a social media lurker, Like and acknowledge a good post. Google and find how to do #workingoutloud.

Further reading via the All Things IC blog: How to work out loud.

5. What does a typical day or working week look like for you?

I work mostly from home as an independent digital transformation consultant. No week is ever the same. I love the flexibility of planning my own time.

I never feel alone as #workoutloud across numerous social media channels, often just from my mobile on the go. I also spend time working with clients at their office or more informally for a coffee chat.

I join at least two online Twitter chats a week with my peers.

I am often invited to present on digital transformation at conferences and run workshops. My dog is an approved therapy dog for #PetsAsTherapy and we spend Friday afternoons at a local Primary school helping children with learning difficulties to read with more confidence.

6.  Name a book you think every communicator should read, and why you’ve chosen it

Sorry two: Brilliant Business Writing by Neil Taylor – Full of tips, examples and exercises that transform your writing from the same old same old into something that’ll mark you out from the crowd.

Get the confidence and creativity to take your business writing from something that does the job into something that’s brilliant!

Working Out Loud by John Stepper – Spread the skill of building networks and leveraging digital tools to get things done, while helping people tap into autonomy, mastery, and purpose at work.

Further reading via the All Things IC blogHow to work out loud.

7. What’s the one thing you couldn’t do your job without?

My iPhone, currently without whilst writing this. Screen being repaired. I’m using an olde worlde Nokia that is so small I am struggling to send a text message!

We take this technology for granted. Spend a few days without and feel the frustration of being slowed down and having to carry the laptop around. I do not own an iPad as happy with my iPhone when it works!

8. What is the future of internal communication?

IC should be encouraging employees to works towards a more responsive organisation that uses better employee engagement/advocacy behaviours and principles that are part of “working out loud” aligned to strategic goals to better serve our customers, markets and employees.

IC should encourage leadership to work across boundaries and flatten hierarchies.

For most organisations, an element of hierarchy will likely always exist. So, it should fall upon the IC leader to be the one to bridge any command and control hierarchical levels, to further develop an open culture.

To do so they need to act more as advisors, connectors and facilitators of communication, rather than just being those who help push the messages from the top to the bottom.

However, each organisation is different, with some experiencing greater change than others at different times. Equally in-house business areas will adopt new ways of working at different times depending on the culture of that part of the business.

Enterprise social networking will also help to attract and obtain the right talent, who will expect these new ways of working in a forward-thinking company, that emulate the outside world of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram using #tags.

9. Where can people find you online?

There are many ways to get in touch and places you can find me online:

Thank you very much Lesley, I enjoyed reading your answers and congrats on your MVP recognition.


First published on the All Things IC blog 19 March 2017.

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