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The power of the corridor conversation

May, 13 – BY TAM SANDEMAN – A mad old lady who lived in the village where I grew up (no not you mother) in the sunny climes of deepest Sussex in the UK was known as ‘Have A Chat’ for obvious reasons. Bear with me…this IS relevant to what we do.

Fast forward to today, I’ve just come out of an internal communication planning session with the CEO of a large Australian organisation. We discussed many things. How to truly engage employees in the company’s exciting new vision and company direction; what should launch look like; how could he tell the best and most powerful story to his people. One that would really resonate. The list went on.

The CEO had one clear light-bulb moment during that conversation. I repeated something very powerful once said to me:  “Leaders are at their most powerful when they don’t think they’re communicating”.

It’s those casual conversations which take place in the corridor, after a meeting, in the car park, in the canteen queue (and heaven forbid in the bathroom) which are more authentic, more believable, less rehearsed.

It’s precisely those moments leaders need to embrace and respond to which are so powerful. Not only embrace, but actively create opportunities for them to happen. Now while this is rare, I know tales of one CEO who won’t come out of his office even to get a sandwich, who will go out of his way to avoid conversation. It has made his people challenge his authenticity when he is delivering messages about people.

As internal communicators we must remind our leaders of the strategic value of those moments.  Whether it be about change management communication or regular organisational messages, the informal communication channels are just as, if not more important than those which are formal.  And as Rose Kennedy said: “Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments”.

It’s cost effective and it’s powerful.  For those leaders looking to provide more authenticity in their communication, it’s a no brainer really.  In my book it’s better to be known as willing to ‘Have A Chat’, than only able to ‘Have A Corporate Chat’.

…but beware…  Mrs Have A Chat would be over 110 years if she were still alive today, but if you see someone sporting a blue rinse and Dame Edna style glasses at about 5ft tall… run the other way, FAST.