Dancing and Finding Joy

In my imagination, Viola Davis is my ‘auntie’, but my family are concealing this information from me. I am going to borrow a pearl of wisdom from her to briefly explain my take on a piece of not so breaking news that came out recently. While accepting her Emmy in 2015 for outstanding actress in a drama series for her portrayal as professor Annalise Keating on “How to Get Away with Murder, she said, “The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. You can not win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there." I mention this in the week when Twitter is awash with claims of Beyonce refusing to work with Reebok because of their lack of diversity, and the CIPR State of the Profession is published — showing that our industry is becoming less diverse and failing to protect the mental health of its professionals.

If diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being allowed to dance, then who is the DJ playing the music or the bouncer at the door enforcing the 'guest list' with the VIP’s who have the proverbial red carpet rolled out and the velvet rope raised for them. Some days I feel like this industry is one long evening of a silent disco. If you have never been to one, it is a fun but unusual experience. We are all wearing our various headphones each tuned to a different channel. On the dance floor we patiently wait for the DJ to work his magic, but sadly he may not switch on the music for everyone so they simply can’t dance. Because as my wise ‘aunt’ mentioned if the opportunities aren’t being offered then how do we ensure that we have true inclusion. If you don’t give me the chance to lead the teams, speak at conferences on communications and public relation principles, design campaigns and advance to positions that hold real power and influence then how do you expect me to win the awards or sing the melody of inclusiveness.

Comms over coffee

Ella Minty shared, Fixing the Flawed Approach to Diversity by BCG, which unpicks the defects of diversity and inclusion initiatives. Nodding to advancement and retention as a gap for inclusivity of BAME talent gives what Viola mentioned weight. Hiring diverse talent to fill quotas and then failing to nurture talent to move further in their careers to reach their full potential is similar to an employer and our industry selling us the artistic impressions, but choosing not to build the house year after year but keep referring to the plans.

So, I am at the party, and I am going to dance because the DJ is giving me a song to dance to and Polly Cziok has promised to bring the cocktails.

A full list of different blogs and articles analysing the report can be found here.

Now on to more joyous matters. This week I attended an evening with Bruce Daisley, EMEA Vice President of Twitter, author of best-selling book The Joy of Work and the host of the podcast Eat Sleep Work Repeat. I highly recommend the podcast for anyone interested in internal communications.

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Bruce explored many things that I will go into further in future posts as I study more and dive into the book. I am going to outline some of my key takeaways from the evening and what I am changing.

  • We need to future proof ourselves by upskilling in the areas of inventiveness and creativity.

  • The hustle culture as it’s popularly known which glorifies working dangerously long hours is contour productive to creativity.

  • Positive Affect and Psychological Safety have the most significant impact on workplace culture.

  • For an internal communications professional there is a danger of trying to implement quick fixes. At times organisations can create the ‘Smoothie delusion’ that tries to put everyone in a good mood, through improving the benefits that have a one time impact but they do little to transform the state of mind.

  • As Bruce explained, “There are no simple hacks to resolve these things, you need to think about a system to resolve these things to try and build a state of positive affect using far more strategic long term approaches.”

  • Psychological safety doesn’t scale. Amy Edmondson which Bruce references to said, “For fear of appearing ignorant we don’t ask questions, for fear of appearing obstructive we don’t raise objections, we are at a state of managing the impression.”

  • Systems of fear kill our capacity to be creative. But even more, concerning is how fear and stress linger in the air like a bad hangover.

What I am changing:

  • Turning off my notifications

  • Taking a lunch break away from my desk as much as possible

  • Have more face to face interactions

  • Foster an atmosphere of collaboration

  • Develop techniques to improve my energy efficiency

Find an extract of the book on the podcast and I will share my thoughts soon. If you can’t wait listen to Sally’s take on the podcast #CU on the air.

Awww you Don’t Know What AI is?


 

 

Has anyone else seen the MacDonald’s advert? You know the one, where all someone needs is an answer to the question, What is a flat white?

Well, I am every person in that ad and at the end of my version is Kerry Sheehan who kindly answers my conundrum, what does AI mean for Public Relations and Communications professions? I ran to her with all my questions about artificial intelligence.



Now I have been around AI for a while, but I naively thought that I was secure because the robots aren’t writing the press releases yet or designing the agenda for the employee engagement events, so why care. But I too had to confront the existence that we now live and work in. In my day job I am surrounded by smart people who are well plugged into their niches and fields of expertise, so after our Women’s Day breakfast, a conversation started about how AI  has become a stumbling block for women when applying to specific companies. The data that has been inputted is biased. The example of Amazon who had to scrap their AI recruiting tool as it showed bias against women. A colleague has since shared with me how AI is being used in the legal profession and examples from my world internal communications. Although there are already examples such as Attuned in Japan, Xexec, Yva, Trustsphere and Kronos. On further exploration, I discovered work being done by start-ups such as Fuel 50 and Gloat which will most definitely be taking me down a hole of learning. I want understand how AI can help us with employee engagement?  How are companies such as Microsoft already using AI to boost employee engagement? Find resources for Microsoft employee engagement summit 2018 here.  

I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. I mean with artificial intelligence we’re summoning the demon.
— Elon Musk warned at MIT’s AeroAstro Centennial Symposium

It isn’t, however, all doom and gloom, I came to the realisation that AI in a way has been my saving grace. I am dyslexic and so 12 years ago when I started out as a young journalist, I struggled immensely and had to take a break from the media because of it. Today I have tools such as Grammarly which were non-existent. I have something that can help me develop my writing skills and gave me the confidence to come back into the industry five years ago. I'm now writing again, am working in the profession I love.  

So what can one do to equip themselves for the ever-changing world? I remember being at Best and scanning through piles of nationals and dailies to clip the stories that would make great features of the magazine or going through look books every season, that now is a thing of the past. We all now have the freedom in my communications role to focus on mapping out change and developing new creative ways to communicate.

I want to share Kerry’s advice to me from our conversation which I hope helps anyone who is sometimes overwhelmed by all the new changes like me.

 

Start reading and learning about it. What is try AI and what is automation?

  • Understand what skills are in danger and where you need to equip yourself. The CIPR AI committee has produced a skills wheel, #AIinPR in 5 years, it is a concise and clear breakdown of where we are a profession. Where are we using AI now and how do we ensure we get the most out of it. Some ideas that come to mind are media monitoring, sentiment analysis, personalisation and audience segmentation.

Image courtesy of CIPR #AIinPR

Image courtesy of CIPR #AIinPR

 

 

This week has been very exciting as the Institute of Internal Communications celebrated its 70th birthday. I headed to the London region launch event.  It was great to meet other Internal comms professionals and talk about our profession. Check our Rachel Dakin, IOIC London Director’s Video with Shootsta.

 

IOIC 70th Comms Over Coffee

Keep your eyes peeled for Part 3 of Broke Girls Guide to Professional Development in Communications, there are a few surprises planned. You can read part One and Two  here, and the unexpected post Broke Girl’s Pleas to Conference Producers .

Please head over to the CIPR AI which has  some excellent resources to help you start laying the foundations and deepen your understanding of AI and automation. I recommend this week’s episode of The Internal Comms Podcast with Katie Macaulay and her guest Stephen Waddington aka @wadds.

This week has been a bit of a blur, but I did manage to listen to the astounding Dave Trott on beating creative blindness, (live from IAB Leadership Summit) on Bruce Daisley’s very insightful podcast Eat Sleep Work Repeat. I'm looking forward to The Joy of Work: An evening with Bruce Daisley, EMEA Vice President of Twitter hosted by the IOIC on 5th April. Sally Northeast shares her learning from the book in the latest episode of of #CU on The Air podcast, listen here

Please do let me know your thoughts and experiences with AI in Comms, PR, Marketing, and  Advertising as I want to learn and share experiences.

Secure to Innovate and Create

A few weeks ago I read Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown which has challenged me to think about vulnerability and how I dare my own limits to be a better communicator. Looking at the State of the Sector report by Gatehouse and the Edelman Trust Barometer I am even more curious about how the conditions in our workplaces allow us to be creative and innovative. I am running this survey to try and understand whether psychological safety is something that is important to our industry regardless of specialism.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation creativity and change.
— Brené Brown
Create your own user feedback survey

For some context psychological safety is a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking. It can be defined as "being able to show and employ one's self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career" (Kahn 1990, p. 708). In psychologically safe teams, team members feel accepted and respected.

I would really appreciate it if you could feel out this short survey. I would also love to hear your thoughts or experiences.

Resources

High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It by Laura Delizonna

How To Create Your Own Psychological Safety At Work by Karlyn Borysenko

In the Arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat
— Theodore Roosevelt


I first heard Theodore Roosevelt's arena speech as it is referred to on Tim Ferris Podcast in his audacious interview with the scariest Navy seal imaginable, Jocko Willink. At the time and until now I always thought of it as something to read when someone who knows not of my struggles passes criticism without providing a tangible solution or adding value.  I was reminded of the quote this week when I read Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. Although it had on my reading list for a while, I think I was avoiding it because it unearths my complex personal struggle with vulnerability, shame and disengagement. But if I'm going to be a better communicator and leader, then I have to be able to work on the things that lead me to hide away from having difficult conversations and confronting ugly truths and deal with vulnerabilities self-imposed or others. So thanks Advita for reminding me of it.

But thinking of the arena speech takes me back to all the conversations that can be summed up in our constant conflict as communicators, “Everyone thinks they can do comms.” Yes, everyone standing on the side-lines assumes that what we do is write a tweet or two, print a few posters and churn out the press releases. But I wonder whether they see the blood sweat and tears behind the scenes. So let's all give each other in the arena a pat on the back and embrace vulnerability. But let’s also make sure we aren’t a critic too judging ourselves harshly and holds on to toxic perfectionism.

 

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I went to FutureNet’s Trailblazer event to get some insights into the fantastic triple awarding winning employee engagement campaign, Trailblazers by Kerry Foods. Jacqueline Ryan, Internal Communications and Employee Engagement Advisor at Kerry Foods, and FutureNet committee member shared great insights and here are my five key takeaways.

  • Employee engagement which is leader led has to be precisely that. People need to see and hear leadership at every stage in an authentic way. 

  • Be flexible and allow the campaign to flow. Sometimes the best-laid plans change, and that is fine.

  • Let the stories shine through.

  • User-generated content is the future as budgets gets tighter and communicating with hard to reach audiences becomes harder.

  • Recognise people for their courage and desire to take part. These are the things that cost nothing but mean so much to people and should be at the heart of the business values.

 

I managed to catch up with Jess, The Voracious Nomad who put me on the spot slightly and interviewed me for her podcast. We talked about professional development, storytelling, black tax and the future.  Doing this interview was entirely out of my comfort zone, and I usually would have said no but over the last year I have been saying yes more thanks to Shonda Rhimes. Listen to it here

 

Resources mentioned in the episode:

Who will be my Ellen?

Year of Yes- Shonda Rhimes

Born a Crime, Stories from a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah

Slay In Your Lane - Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené

Legacy – James Kerr

AllThingsIC

Comms2point0

The IC space

Alive with Ideas

Comms Unplugged  

#CommsChat

Power and Influence by Ella Minty

The Internal Comms Podcast with Katie Macaulay

Winter Book List

I have recently been asked a few times to update my book list. This is only about 7 months old so there will be many books missing as its not an extensive list of all the books I have read over the years. 

There is no friend as loyal as a book.
— Ernest Hemingway

Completed

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead - Brené Brown

The Icarus Deception – Seth Godin

Slay In Your Lane - Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené

Legacy – James Kerr

If you think of physical conditioning, technical understanding and tactical appreciation as forming three legs,’ Wayne Smith tells writer Gregor Paul, ‘the stool isn’t balanced unless you have psychological strength as well.
— James Kerr, Legacy

The last Black Unicorn – Tiffany Haddish

Linchpin: Are you Indispensable – Seth Godin

If I Could Tell You Just One Thing...: Encounters with Remarkable People and Their Most Valuable Advice – Richard Reed

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business-   Charles Duhigg

The Thank You Economy - Gary Vaynerchuk

Poke the Box – Seth Godin

Start with why – Simon Sinek

Crushing It – Gary Vaynerchuk

Any company that gets so complacent it thinks everything is “fine” deserves to go out of business—it literally means its leaders have stopped caring. A competitive company is always on the offense. Always. Always. Always.
— Gary Vaynerchuk, The Thank You Economy

Year of Yes- Shonda Rhimes

Born a Crime, Stories from a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah

Lean in: Women, work and the will to lead – Sheryl Sandberg

You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth – Jen Sincero

The Thank You Economy – Gary Vanyerchuck

We're Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True- Gabrielle Union

Your world is only as small as you make it.
— Gabrielle Union, We're Going to Need More Wine

In Progress

Becoming – Michelle Obama

Beyond the Babble: Leadership Communication that Drives Results - Bob Matha and Macy Boehm

Principles – Ray Daillio

Man’s Search for meaning – Viktor E.Frankl

Shoe Dog – Phil Knight

There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others
— Becoming – Michelle Obama

Queued

Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson

Yes, My Accent is Real – Kunal Nayyar

Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups - Daniel Coyle

The Barcelona Way: How to Create a High-performance Culture -  Damian Hughes

Way of the Wolf: Straight line selling: Master the art of persuasion, influence, and success - Jordan Belfort

This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See -  Seth Godin

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts - Brené Brown

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't -Simon Sinek

Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution - Walter Isaacson

The Storyteller's Secret : How TED Speakers and Inspirational Leaders Turn Their Passion into Performance - Carmine Gallo

The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds - Carmine Gallo

The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F – Mark Manson

The Real McCaw: The Autobiography

Dan Carter: The Autobiography of an All Blacks Legend

What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School - Mark H. McCormack

 

Do you have any recommendations for me?