“I wanted to move from more of a tactical, transactional approach.” – A Q&A

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. In this instalment of our series of conversations, Stephen spoke to Fayrouz Essack, Strategic Communications Manager at the UK Department for Transport.

Stephen: Hi Fayrouz, please tell me a little about your work.

Fayrouz: I’m part of the strategic communications team at the Department for Transport (DfT). My work includes overseeing management of the ‘grid’ – the tool we use to coordinate departmental communication and working on our external campaigns.

Stephen: But you’ve not been at DfT for long?

Fayrouz: No, I re-joined in June 2018, after a stint working in the Prime Minister’s Office as a Senior Campaigns Manager. That was exciting because working at the centre of government gives you a new perspective. I worked with lots of different people in different departments and was able to build my network and work in some challenging situations.

Stephen: You mentioned building your network. How did you do that?

Fayrouz: I wanted to move from more of a tactical, transactional approach. So I did two things. First, where possible, I arranged to meet people face-to-face and used the opportunity to find out a bit more their professional priorities and preoccupations. Second, I tried to find things we have in common: can I ‘click’ with them? What values do we both share? What do they do outside of work? This provides a common ground for working with them.

Stephen: Very good. In my research about how to build trusted adviser relationships, I identified four elements. You are already using two: building the relationship and identifying the common ground. (The other two are defining the business outcome and reducing risk.)

Fayrouz: Indeed. I learned about the importance of networking as part of the Early Talent Programme.

Stephen: Yes, I know. We met when we ran a Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders workshop as part of the 2-day residential element of the programme. As you will recall, we built a special, tailored version for use for government communicators. What can you tell me about the wider context of the whole programme?

Fayrouz: The Early Talent Programme is a two-year programme run by the UK Government Communication Service (GCS) to help professionals build and develop their career. I started in April 2017 and it has really helped me build my career. For example, I was a given a coach who I see every month. My coach really helps me think through challenges and encourages me to think about the next step in my career. I’d encourage anyone in the GCS to see if they’re eligible to apply.

Stephen: You said earlier that you like to find out more about people do outside of work. What about you? What do you do outside of work?

Fayrouz: I go to boxing class. My coach actually suggested I go weekly, ensuring I balance my career and development with self care. I liked it so much I now go twice a week. Last weekend I was in Kiev where my partner works. It was so cold!

Stephen: Yes I can imagine. Thanks again for your time.

Learn more about the work of the UK Department for Transport and also the Early Talent Programme. And you can connect with Fayrouz on LinkedIn.

And if you’d like to try the game: see if it is right for you.

If you’re an alumna/us and you’d like to be interviewed, let us know.

“Sometimes decision-making is not so cut and dried” – A Carmen Q&A

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. In this installment of our series of conversations, Carmen spoke to Rita Zonius who runs the communications, change and social media agency called the Enterprise Social Engineer.

Carmen: It has been a while – what’s new with you?

Rita: Hey Carmen! I took the leap to start my own business 18 months ago after working in various corporate communications roles for a very long time in one of Australia’s largest banks.

Carmen: Cool. Congrats. That’s incredibly exciting. Now, you played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders… Tell me more about that.

Rita: Oh, I liked it so much.

I actually ended up co-hosting it with Stephen Welch in London once. So I’ve been very lucky.

Thinking back to the first time I experienced it … I was in Singapore at a conference – and the thing I liked about it was how it reminds you that, as a communications practitioner, there are often no black or white answers. There are there are shades of grey and sometimes you have to make the best decision with the information that you have available to you. I think that is the great thing about playing the game. Sometimes decision-making is not so cut and dried.

Carmen: You say cut and dried?

Rita: I think sometimes it might be an absence of information. As a leader you’re not always going to be exposed to every single piece of information that you need to help you make a perfect decision. So the scenarios in the game really force you to think carefully about the course of action you should take. How different stakeholders might react and what the outcomes of that could be.

Carmen: And your own venture … what are you doing at the moment and does any of it link back to the things you might have learnt playing this game? Or things that you might help others learn – using this game…?

A lot of what I’m doing is coaching executives around the appropriate use of social media to build their impact and influence. With that comes thinking about questions such as: ‘How should I conduct myself?’. And ‘I’m sharing what I know – and is it coming from a place of generosity and with a good intention in mind or am I simply just trying to sell?’.

So I’m really mindful of all of that dynamic when I’m talking to executive teams about how they personally conduct themselves on social media. We don’t want to involve smoke and mirrors. We want to be authentic. Find a way to use social media that really speaks to who you are what you stand for and what your personal brand is because if you try to be someone else (not your authentic self) it will come through anyway. So I think that’s also some lessons that playing this game can teach: to make the best decisions you can from a place of authenticity. Don’t try and game the system. People will see through it.

The other thing I would say about the game is the interaction. What’s great about it is that once people get over their shyness for the first two minutes, they really get into it. The conversations around the tables are very rich. Particularly when you have diverse viewpoints being put on the table and being discussed. Somebody will inevitably illustrate that things are not black and white. The right answer for ‘you’ may not be the right answer for ‘me’. And listening to the sort of vigorous conversation is great. It gives you a fresh perspective.

You can find Rita on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter @RitaZonius

And if you’d like to try the game: see if it is right for you.

If you’re an alumni and you’d like to be interviewed by Carmen, let us know here.

“Never assess the situation from your own lens…” – A Carmen Q&A

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. In this installment of our series of conversations, Carmen spoke to Colin Hatfield the founder and senior partner at Visible Leaders.

Carmen: Hello Colin; tell me a bit more about your work…

Colin: We help leaders to articulate a vision that inspires – at all levels. We help them develop the skills to engage their internal and external audiences, to drive performance and realise their organization’s ambitions.

We believe that at the heart of leadership lies great communication. Great leaders inspire change and motivate their teams through what they say, what they do and how they listen.

Carmen: You’ve played this game more than once…

Colin: Yes! And it has developed quite a bit. The first time I tried it was when it was in a very early version. And then I partook in a ‘proper’ session earlier this year at the Strategic Adviser Forum as part of IABC’s World Conference in Montreal.

I think it works on many many levels. It is an idea that we could build in with some of our clients, and some of the relationships we’ve got.

Carmen: What surprised you the most?

Colin: Perhaps not surprised, but what I liked the most is the discussion it generates. In some situations there is a right and wrong answer. but in many there aren’t. What is interesting is to see a bunch of professionals in the room come to different outcomes. Understanding the different factors that informed their decision-making process. Getting into that was enlightening.

Carmen: You’ve recently been writing and speaking about Adaptive Leadership. Is this something that is relevant here?

Colin: Adaptive leadership is about how leaders show up: reading a situation, understanding the context – and understanding how to have the best possible impact. It is a move on from the pure ‘authenticity’ discussion that has been going on for some time. I think the game could easily be used to explore some of these challenges and approaches in practice.

Carmen: Have you got a couple of top tips from Adaptive Leadership that could be used by others playing the game?

Colin: Sure!

  1. Never assess the situation from your own lens. What’s great about the Adaptive Leadership approach is that it helps you look at things from the point of view of your stakeholders.
  2. Experiment – try taking on the different ‘personas’ as you think through the challenge. That’s essential when you play this game – and in work in general. Explore what makes the various stakeholders you deal with tick.

Carmen: Big thanks Colin – and where can we find out more about your work?

Read our blog for more on Adaptive Leadership – and you may also find our recent white papers on Communication Across Cultures and A Practical Approach to Stakeholder Management useful.

Connect with Colin on LinkedIn if you want to learn more – and follow @VisibleLeaders

And if you’d like to try the game: see if it is right for you.

If you’re an alumni and you’d like to be interviewed by Carmen, let us know here.

“…you’ll also make connections – who knows, maybe even a future colleague or mentor.” – A Carmen Q&A

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. In this installment of our series of conversations, Carmen spoke to Adity Tripathi who played the game at the London College of Communication as part of the MA in Public Relations.

Carmen: Tell me a bit more about yourself

I’ve been living in London for about a year. I came here from New Delhi in order to do a Master’s degree in Public Relations.

Right now I’m working on my dissertation. It is on the topic of Male Gaze, something the feminist film critic Laura Mulvey identified her 1975 essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema“. I’m exploring how it still applies today – well beyond cinema. If you have something interesting to add on that, do reach out.

Carmen: Interesting work Adity. Now, you played Corporate Snakes & Career Ladders – how did you find it?

Adity: It was a unique experience – and a lot of fun. We were 5-6 people and it was like game grew up with us, and us with it. We learnt a lot as a group.

Carmen: What was the main take-away for you?

Adity: We had to make lots of decisions. Your decisions individually, and as a team, directly impact the result. It isn’t always about following the text-book approach so to speak. You really have to collaborate with the others on the team.

Carmen: Would you play it again?

Adity: Definitively. In addition to have fun and learning, you’ll also make connections – who knows, maybe even a future colleague or mentor!

Carmen: What’s next for you?

Graduation – and then I’ll be searching for a job. If you have ideas / opportunities, do contact me.

Connect with Adity on LinkedIn – and follow her @adity_noni

And if you’d like to try the game: see if it is right for you. We feature on the curriculum for Adity’s course.

If you’re an alumni and you’d like to be interviewed by Carmen, let us know here.

 

“A bit like taking part in … Moral Maze” – A Carmen Q&A

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. In this instalment of our series of conversations, Carmen spoke to Steven Shepperson-Smith, a Chartered PR Practitioner and Chair of the Chartered Institute for Public Relations (CIPR) Greater London Group. 

Carmen: I noticed that you’re a chartered practitioner, can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Steven: I’ve been working in communications for about 20 years now. I’ve been in the CIPR for my whole career.

CIPR is the only chartered body for the PR industry in the UK, meaning it is responsible for maintaining high professional standards in the industry. It supports practitioners on two fronts: developing their skills and careers; and ensuring that they have a very clear ethical code to follow, enabling CIPR members to demonstrate strong judgment when making decisions.

Chartered status is the gold standard for practitioners in the UK. It is a peer based assessment of a person’s leadership qualities, strategic approach and ethical standards. I qualified a couple years ago and it’s a great club to be in. It tells employers and customers that you’ll do a job in a highly effective and professional manner.

Chartered Status also underpins the importance of continuous professional development (CPD). It’s really important that PR practitioners invest in their careers and keep learning, Committing to CPD is just a way of making sure you do that alongside all the other work priorities!

Carmen: How did you come across Corporate Snakes & Career Ladders?

Steven: I am chair of the CIPR Greater London Group. The last couple of years CIPR has run an ethics month (#EthicsFest) and we’ve used the game in that context. I’ve played it twice myself.

It’s quite a fun way for people to engage in ethics for their CPD points. There’s a compulsory requirement: you’ve got to do one ethics module – and quite a lot of the time it can feel a bit theoretical and dull.

Instead, playing a game and discussing scenarios and trying to win against other practitioners is great fun.

I talked before about using strong judgment, what was really helpful was sitting in a room just talking with other senior practitioners about ethical quandaries. There is no guarantee at all that any of the scenarios will occur for real in a person’s career but it helps to hear different approaches to a problem. With ethics, as you know, there’s not always a right or wrong – but a lot of grey in between. It was a bit like taking part in BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze from that perspective!

Carmen: Great. What’s next?

StevenCIPR Greater London Group holds a free Drink event on the second Monday of every month at the Merchant House in Fleet Street. It’s the biggest PR networking drinks in London and we’d love to see you there sometime. You can book for that and other events on our Eventbrite page.

If you would like to learn more about attaining and maintain Chartered Practitioner status, connect with Steven on LinkedIn. 

And if you’d like to try the game: see if it is right for you.

If you’re an alumni and you’d like to be interviewed by Carmen, let us know here.