Leaders need to be detached. Which means getting off the dance floor and going to the balcony.
There is a strong correlation between asking for feedback and the overall effectiveness of leaders. But can you ask for feedback without risking your authority?
Sensitive to criticism?
At times I admit to having being sensitive when people critiqued my PR efforts. You may have experienced something similar. Invariably we try our best so when we do fall short, it can be uncomfortable when someone highlights our failures. Yet when people offer feedback it’s a terrific opportunity to improve performance.
PR managers may have substantial authority but they are only human.
Delegation builds better workplaces. Don’t believe me? Walk into a place where there’s frustrated staff, an uncertain atmosphere and low productivity and most likely you’ll find a boss making every decision, having all the ideas and insisting people work within strict limits.
Delegating is crucial for government, agency and not for profit PR leaders whether they manage small teams or large outfits.
PR teams routinely juggle competing deadlines and multiple projects. That’s true for other disciplines but uncertainty and crisis are never far away from the PR professional. Plus there’s always a campaign in play, about to start or wrapping up.
When PR leaders start saying ‘we tried that and it didn’t work’ they become the barrier to innovation.
The longer you lead a communications team the danger grows that you default automatically to what’s worked in the past. Of course the past is where your successes lie but it becomes a problem when it stifles the creativity of your staff and fails you for the future.
That’s why good PR leaders are always thought leaders with the habit of spotting the trends likely to impact their organisations, teams, even their own careers.
Leaders have little time so if you’re just surviving the working week how do you find space to think beyond your inbox?
Image: Rusty Crawshaw
A PR thought leader must be part explorer, advocate and activist – a curious mix that can be a terrific boost to your career.
One of the skills you – the leader – need is the ability to spot trends likely to affect your organisation and team. This applies to all leaders but specially to PR leaders.
Communications, communities and institutions are changing at lighting speed and unless we anticipate the future we can easily find ourselves marooned in present practice with outdated skills and talking to audiences that have long moved on.
Feeling the future
Thought leadership is about preparing your career, your team and your organisation for the future.
Last week I asked 40 communicators to nominate a communicator-leader they admired. The room feel silent and only two people raised their hands. I was stunned. Surely there must be more because PR specialists have leadership skills in profusion.
Recently I presented on the topic of leadership to Australian Government communicators in Canberra. Which got me thinking how PR people in government and business rank when they get the chance to lead. Are PR professionals superior, average or below par when it comes to leading teams and organisations?
Research on the subject of PR leadership is thin. There’s been some American research but scant Australian study.
In late April I’m speaking at a Canberra conference for Government communicators about what makes a good PR leader. And how to develop the skills and characteristics you need to lead.
It’s a subject everyone in the room is sure to have an opinion on. By nature PR people are very perceptive continually assessing the people around us in senior positions.
While the academic and HR worlds abound with definitions, leadership is a word you normally don’t associate with the PR profession. I have always taken the approach that in the communications environment the difference is easy to spot.
A manager arranges.
(Courtesy: Tech n’ Marketing)
As PR professionals we attend numerous meetings each month. Probably too many for our liking. They can range from plotting a campaign to discussing tactics with your team, a client or colleagues.
You can establish yourself as a PR leader at these gatherings by posing three simple questions and in the process save at lot of time and trouble:
- What are the media and social media implications of our issue?
- Where are the stories?
- Who’s got the images?
At any meeting touching on PR ask those attending two simple questions. ‘How will the media react to our issue’ and ‘can the media tie this topic to something else?’
These inquiries get people thinking about the media implications of the topic on the table, and how to best present it to journalists and through social media channels.
It’s very easy to let ‘groupthink’ infiltrate PR planning.
Cass Sunstein is a Professor of Law at Harvard
Statements such as I like something therefore other people must like it too (egocentric bias) can derail communications planning even before it gets properly underway. And a communications leader must be ever alert to the dangers of letting his or her team slip into repetitive patterns and not challenging assumptions.
US legal academic and former Obama official Professor Cass R Sunstein of Harvard University writes:
” People tend to ignore the long term; to be unduly afraid of losses; to display unrealistic optimism; to make self serving judgements: and to deal poorly with risks.
Leslie Grossman, Vistage Chair to CEOs and author of Link Out: How to Turn Your Network into a Chair of Lasting Connections, blogged recently about the need to restore balance and get off the digital treadmill.
Here’s her wise words – reprinted with her permission.
Isn’t it ironic? With an estimate of 500 million tweets/day, Twitter says that among the top 10 New Year’s resolutions tweeted by their users, ‘Unplug’ is the 5th most popular. As expected, ‘work out’ and ‘lose weight’ are number 1 and 3. ‘Be happy’ and ‘stop smoking’ are number 2 and 4. For the first time, ‘unplug’ has made the top ten.
What happens when the Communicator-in-Chief lacks a PR or marketing background?
Some time in the new year someone will ask you to endorse your organisation’s communications plans for 2015. Which is fine. You either manage the communications team or are responsible for its PR campaigns.
The decisions you make will determine how the dollars are spent, the priorities for your staff and, most importantly, how your brand is expressed. Yet you may have no training or background in communications or be new to the job.
Communications is a top role for CEOs. I’d say along with strategic planning it’s the single most important thing you do!