This a guest post by Rebecca for MyImpact, as part of their work on Social Intrapreneurship in corporate organisations. You can see the original post here. MyImpact grows conscious leaders and mindful organisations through meaningful careers, social intrapreneurship and responsible leadership.
Communicating your vision & getting buy in – The journey of a Social Intrapreneur
You’ve identified your mission as a social intrapreneur. You know what you want to change, be it creating a more sustainable supply chain, financing small social impact start-ups or making work a better place for your employees. Maybe you even know how you’ll do it
Now you just need to plan, execute, communicate.
Except not in that order
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that communication comes at the end, when you’re ready to go out to the world.
Not only can that be a huge waste of time whilst you rework and redesign unnecessarily, it loses the real benefits that good communication brings – bringing people on board as supporters and advocates from day one.
Insight and engagement from the start means no need for a big bang approach and less risk of no one listening. Here is how.
Get comfortable with questioning
With any good communication strategy, you need a structure. Think of it like a spider’s web. Your idea is at the centre and you are the spider, responsible for spinning the web around it. Reaching out and pulling people in.
Traditional communication strategies tend to come much later and are executed once you know exactly what you are saying and to whom.
I challenge you to take the risk of not knowing the answer to everything before you start talking about it to the people that matter. To maybe feeling lost at times, but ultimately pushing yourself to take a truly collaborative approach to buying in executive supporters, key stakeholders and integrating your communication strategy right where it matters – as core to your idea development.
Start at the end
Your vision is the starting point for buy in. What do you want to do? What is the opportunity you see and why do you see it?
People will always identify with the end goal, if they don’t, you know pretty early on that you need to explain it differently.
Your vision should be broad but specific, it’s not about the how, it’s about the what. Don’t over complicate it. If your vision is to make employees happier, say that.
Above all, don’t be afraid of not having all of the answers up front. You’ll be challenged, questioned and looked at like you’re crazy, but if you know where you’re trying to get to, the detail will come through that process.
Emotion plus fact an authentic story makes.
Map your influencers
Who are you talking to? What do you need to know? Referring back to The Journey of a Social Intrapreneur Part Two , who might be your champions, sponsors, influencers and gatekeepers?
Map out your stakeholders and rank them according to their influence that could make or break your project and their level of engagement right now.
Start with the ‘hardest’ group, least engaged, most influence. Ask yourself these things:
- What might my vision mean to them?
- How might it make their lives, their jobs, their success or even their children’s future better?
- How might it make it harder? Why? How can you counter-balance that?
- Who can they influence on your behalf?
- What 2-3 things (actions) would you like them to do off the back of your conversation?
When you’re clear, ask for their valued insights and input. Showing you care about how your project impacts others is more than just business sense, it’s basic human interaction skills.
Knowing your audience pays off.
Collaboration, not consultation
Because you are starting at the beginning, you are also completely open to change. This means that your stakeholders’ opinions do actually influence how you develop your project.
So, hold your own, listen, understand and repeat back. Ask your potential advocates and champions how you can include them through the development and if you can come back to them with further questions, once you have assimilated the information. Tell them what you need from them.
When you are genuine in your approach, people will respond to that, not matter what their reputation.
Reflect, not perfect
They say that patience is a virtue and Rome wasn’t built in a day. An intrapreneur’s mindset is naturally one of action, so make sure you take time to reflect on your vision, based on what you’ve heard.
As well as helping you to prototype efficiently, it will help you get to your key messages. The ‘sweet spot’ of what you are trying to do against how it impacts your audience.
Go back to your stakeholder group notes and apply your new insights. The vision shouldn’t change, but maybe how you communicate it will. This is often referred to as reframing.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Who are my key audience groups now?
- What is the relevant message to each group?
- Where do they ‘hang out’? (this will help you think about how to reach the wider groups)
Your vision should be crystal clear and how it applies to each audience group understood. You can use this as a solid foundation to continuously engage your groups on different levels, throughout your project development.
Be mindful of that base and use the structure to create a communication strategy that evolves with the project, not one based on assumptions or as an afterthought.
Communicate, but don’t over-communicate
The hard work has been done, so don’t spend hours working through emails and updates to go to X, Y and Z, to tell them something they already know. Simplicity is the key – keep your written communication to the bare minimum.
Be brave. Think of creative ways to share success and information. Visualise as much as possible and use human contact where you can. Face to face is always the best way for people to reach people.
Last but not least, don’t forget to communicate with yourself. Revisit your first draft vision regularly. Because the moment you lose sight of this, you lose your momentum, and that’s a sure fire way to lose your supporters and direction too.
Going back to zero is a powerful tool for success.
Don’t forget to check out MyImpact’s post for Huffington Post Impact & Aspen Institute First Movers, which we were proud to be part of - Four steps to instigate true social intrapreneurship in your organisation.
If you’re interested in becoming a Social Intrapreneur, check out MyImpact’s infographics The Journey of a Social Intrapreneur Part 1 and Part 2 – How to make it happen for tools and information about innovating for impact as well as profit within organisations. Infographics created by Five Brand Communication.