Communicators are often viewed as expendable, interchangeable or eminently replaceable.
That’s a harsh reality, but it’s not your fault. Communication investment will simply never be as easy to defend as, say, the accounting budget. You’ll always have an uphill battle to earn your spot at the decision-making table—especially if you have a leader who doesn’t inherently “get” communications or understand its value.
So, what’s a communicator to do? How can you become more than a replaceable cog?
Outside of banishing boring copy, bland announcements, boilerplate emails and meaningless metrics, the secret lies in your ability to create—and maintain—genuine, emotional connections with colleagues and clients alike.
As Henri Ducard puts it to Bruce Wayne in “Batman Begins:”
Henri Ducard: But if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can’t stop you, then you become something else entirely.
Bruce Wayne: Which is?
Henri Ducard: Legend, Mr. Wayne.
To become a truly indispensable, untouchable, vital force—an organizational “legend,” if you will—you must become something more than a mere message dispenser.
Here are three ways you can become “something else entirely” in the workplace:
1. Use communication to uplift, encourage, stir, challenge and motivate your colleagues.
Sure, you send out all the benefits announcements and let people know about new policies. You cover company news and make sure everyone’s in the loop on looming changes, and you do so with a flourish.
To go above and beyond, however—to achieve “internal icon status”—you must put extra energy toward emotional support and personal growth. What might this look like?
- Be the person who checks on Marcy when her dog is sick.
- Offer support to Bob when he reports his mom’s cancer diagnosis.
- If you know Cici’s been struggling, ask how she’s doing or if you can help.
- Volunteer to take a task off someone’s plate.
- Decrease pressure for your execs by removing them from stressful situations and putting them instead in places they’re more likely to succeed.
- If you sense Francine’s bored with her role, challenge her to develop a skill she’d excel at.
- Step up to the mic, and give that presentation no one else wants to do.
- Consistently challenge your colleagues to better themselves inside and outside the workplace.
- When your team has a down month, be the one who keeps it light, fun and interesting around the office.
You get the idea. Do what you can to be the person who perks up an otherwise dreary or drab workplace.
2. Use your position to be a peacemaker, silo smasher and executive gate-crasher.
Communicators should always strive to be the bigger person. Rise above infighting, strife and petty grievances, and be proactive about quelling internal beefs. Be a diplomat who helps sort out squabbles from warring organizational tribes.
What might this look like?
- Bridge gaps separating PR, marketing and sales.
- Encourage companywide collaboration, schedule sharing, campaign updates and free-flowing information.
- Earn the trust of HR and IT, and help them become better communicators.
- Earn a spot at the table when execs meet or strategize.
- Once at the executive table, have the guts to be an emissary for employees.
- Push for greater transparency of what’s happening in each department—including in the corner offices.
Be a diplomatic peacemaker, but be tough enough to earn respect.
3. Raise your voice to speak up for what’s right.
What might this look like?
- If you see patterns of behavior that run contrary to what the company espouses, say something.
- Be a voice for underrepresented or undervalued colleagues.
- Fight for better working conditions for employees.
- Encourage colleagues to protect their mental and physical health.
- Have the courage to let execs know how employees really feel about working at the company.
- If your organization has a workaholic culture that burns employees out, challenge your executives to make changes.
- Push execs to hire, promote and empower more diverse voices in underrepresented departments.
- Lend your platform to diverse voices within the company.
- Dig deeper to uncover and tell stories about workers who deserve praise and recognition.
Do these things—or appropriate variations of similar, selfless actions—and you’ll become more than just a communicator. You’ll become something else entirely.