Communication World Senior Editor Jessica Burnette-Lemon asked Kellie Garrett, ABC, IABC Fellow, to shed light on how communication professionals can expand their knowledge and build their influence to become strategic advisers to top leadership.
Garrett is a speaker, executive coach and consultant on leadership, employee engagement, high performance and internal culture change. She coaches individuals and teams on improving communication, engaging in constructive conflict and linking behaviors to business strategy. As a senior executive at Farm Credit Canada, working alongside a visionary CEO, Garrett and her HR peer were instrumental in shifting FCC’s culture from one of command-and-control to one that fostered high employee engagement, ultimately landing FCC as number 5 on Canada’s Top 50 Employers.
Jessica Burnette-Lemon: What skills or attributes do you think are crucial for being an effective strategic communication adviser?
Kellie Garrett: It isn’t a skill or attribute, per se, but I think that understanding the business and the industry you’re in is the foundation. That should go without saying, but I’m still surprised at how many communication professionals aren’t clear on the financial model and business strategy that is driving their organization’s success.
Once you’ve gained that foundational understanding (and assuming that you’re proficient as a communication expert), then you can think of being an effective strategic communication adviser.
The key is understanding what will help and hinder the realization of the business strategy and linking your advice to that. If you demonstrate that you are thinking like a businessperson, rather than “just” a professional communicator, then you will gain more credibility. Credibility gives you licence to share your opinions and gives you a better chance of influencing others, which is a critical skill to being an effective adviser.