In late November, IABC Chapter Leaders and volunteers from around the Asia Pacific region came together in Sydney to share ideas, develop leadership skills, and importantly, build a stronger network across our region. This was the first gathering of the IABC APAC Leadership Institute since 2012, and IABC NSW board member, Kieran McCann, shares with us his takeaways.
Over the weekend of the 27 – 29 November, over 30 communication professionals gathered in Sydney for the IABC APAC Leadership Institute. This was the first Leadership Institute to be held in our region since 2012, and it was a great opportunity to bring together IABC Chapter Leaders and volunteers to share ideas, develop leadership skills, strengthen connections, and build a stronger network across the Asia Pacific region.
This was a dynamic event, expertly organised by the newly formed IABC APAC board. Below are the lessons learned and which ideas we as communication professionals and Chapter Leaders can take back to our day jobs.
It was wonderful that the global IABC Chair, Michael Ambjorn, attended the Leadership Institute along with a diverse range of leaders from India, Singapore, Japan, Fiji, across New Zealand and across Australia including Canberra, Victoria and Brisbane.
Lessons to take back to the day job
Time and time again during the weekend it was highlighted how important creating and following a good strategy is. Chapters that didn’t have a strategic plan in place have often struggled and floundered due to lack of vision.
For us in our day jobs the takeaway lesson was that this is now a great time to be reflecting on the past year, what has and hasn’t worked, and reminding ourselves of that forward vision. It is especially important that we ensure our own plans are not heading off on tangents and still align closely with the organisational strategies that we work to.
For one session we had an excellent lesson by Zora Artis on value proposition. It was a timely reminder for our day jobs that we always need to be thinking about putting ourselves in the shoes of our customers: what they think and feel, what they hear and see, what they say and do. Also what are their pains and how can we help solve them? Plus understanding what they or stand to gain with our help.
This is about understanding our customers every day, and in our day jobs we should be checking in that these assumptions are still valid. A value proposition is an iterative process and one that can fall by the wayside when the churn of the day to day keeps us occupied. By understanding our customers, we can clearly communicate the benefits that we can provide them.
Over the weekend we learned of the four career paths that IABC headquarters uses to define career stages: foundation, generalist/specialist, strategic advisor and business leader (Read the IABC Global Standards). With detailed analysis it has been established that the strategic advisor is the audience sweet spot for the IABC on an international and chapter level. This career level is where chapters should be targeting their energies and focus.
Once you’re able to build a core understanding of your audience, you can then explore other audience opportunities. We learned of the ‘freedom within a framework’ that the Chapter levels work at, so different approaches can be trialled and tested, but until a core customer base is established, other customers are in the ‘nice to have’ box. It was a great reminder for our day jobs to retain focus; it is always tempting to head off and get distracted by that ‘shiny new thing’ but this is often at the detriment of having a core customer focus.
As communicators we often think we can solve problems by writing our way out of them. The message from the weekend came out loud and clear (especially when talking over brand, content, resources and sponsorship opportunities); don’t reinvent the wheel. We can realign the wheels, but certainly for us as IABC leaders, and most probably in our day jobs, collateral is already there.
There is a strong culture among communicators of feeling like we can overcome anything. But before we try and type or talk our way out, we should take a step back and seek out the information already available and use the collective value of our networks to assist our problem solving. In both our day jobs and as IABC leaders we don’t need to start with a blank slate, the IABC resources are there and our networks are invaluable.
Ideas and solutions are in the heads and hearts of those we surround ourselves with. As Michael said we’re “Social capital millionaires” so “If in doubt, reach out”.
At one of the sessions we talked over the power of small and mighty Chapters, and how knowing your community and a personal touch will go a long, long way. A great reminder for us in our day jobs is that picking up the phone, meeting face to face, or with the ability to see one another (via Google Hangouts, Skype) is invaluable. As Chapter Leaders we try and build those close-knit relationships and are often praised about how members find that a personal touch, often not found in other associations, empowering and inviting. Where appropriate in our day to day jobs instead of firing off another faceless email; call, organise a video meeting or just sit down together.
As volunteer board members, there is no set amount of time or effort we need to put in but as many said, “You get out what you put in”. From Zora Artis we learned about what being a leader is about; consistency, clarity, constancy. From former global IABC chair, Adrian Cropley, the lesson was that if we want to step up to ‘the table’ then leadership is not a role we are given, it is one we earn; that knowing ourselves is the key to how we lead others and to seek out our authenticity.
A lesson for our day jobs: do we know and understand what our leadership qualities are? Then when we bring ourselves into work are we bringing our authentic version? If not, we have to ask ourselves, why not?
A place at the top table
Communication professionals often struggle with where they sit at the top table. This was nicely summed up as, “If you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu”. As communication professionals we need to be constantly raising the bar for ourselves and for the profession to take our rightful place at the top table.
The key take out for our day to day jobs – confidence and influence. Michael Ambjorn, global IABC chair, spoke about how he has traveled around the world attending regional leadership institutes and he was emphatic in his wording that at this, and across other regional meetings, he was seeing world class work and people. He spoke about how we need to hold our heads high, that we are far too modest.
He spoke to us about how we were a room of world-class communicators, world-class collaborators and world-class challengers. We were told about the ‘multiplier effect’; as IABC we are a group of 1000+ leaders across the world, we have a unique opportunity to achieve a multiplier effect of influence unavailable to other organisations. With the IABC, and also in our day jobs, we should be confident in our work and influence to take us towards and onto the top table.
Michael Ambjorn started the weekend saying, “I believe that you believe that the communication profession is a force for good”. Our IABC NSW Chapter, the IABC chapters across the APAC region and around the world support a 10,000+ community of communication professionals with innovative thinking, shared best practices, in-depth learning and career guidance to lead that force for good.
The weekend was a wonderful opportunity to come together as regional leaders. Thank you to Leanne Joyce, Chair of the IABC APAC board, and her wonderful team for setting up and delivering an exciting and motivating Leaders Institute.
Kieran McCann is the Marketing and Content Manager at Institute of Public Administration Australia (NSW Division) and VP Professional Development, IABC NSW.