Helping Leaders Step Into the Spotlight with Trudy Lewis

Summary

In this episode, we had a Trudy Lewis, ChartPR, Communications Consultant and Executive Coach on the show chatting to us about how to help leaders who are afraid step into the spotlight and talk about the hard stuff, while helping to steer your organization in the right direction during COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement and Pride month. 

Resources

Project Planning Template
Lewis Communicate

Transcript

Kyla:

Hello and welcome. I’m Kyla Sims.

Adam:

I’m Adam Bradford, and you’re watching the Bananatag Morning Show.

Kyla:

But depending on where you’re tuning in from at night might not be your morning. It might be your lunch, it might be your happy hour. It might be 5:00 PM in the UK and you might be ready to have a drink. Regardless you are here with us and we’re going to be here every Wednesday and Friday at 9:00 AM so we can talk to people from around the world about the ever changing landscape of communications during COVID-19 and dealing with all of this situation.

Adam:

And meanwhile, it’s Friday. And on Fridays we seem to talk to Brits. So today’s very special guest is the one and only Trudy Lewis. Trudy is a Communication Consultant and Executive Coach. She has a passion to help leaders, professionals, and their teams develop an edge to their leadership by becoming more engaging and impactful through communications. Trudy has 20 years experience as a communication professional with a focus on strategic internal communications, employee engagement, and communications for change programs. She supported a number of leading organizations in industries such as retail, hospitality, rail and construction, delivering the right level of communication aligned to business strategy and priorities. Today she joins us from the amazing London, UK. Wish I could go now. Please welcome Trudy Lewis.

Trudy:

Hi.

Kyla:

Welcome Trudy. It’s so good to have you. Before we get started, we know it’s five o’clock where you are. But we need to know what’s in your cup.

Trudy:

Well, it’s a glass and it’s water. Really boring, I’m sorry. It’s too hot to have anything else so that’s what I’m sipping on at the moment.

Kyla:

And it’s what? 34 degrees there?

Trudy:

34 degrees so Fahrenheit would be 93.

Kyla:

Just cooking.

Trudy:

It’s hot.

Kyla:

So water is probably a good choice.

Trudy:

Yeah.

Kyla:

Yeah. It’s probably a good choice.

Adam:

Stay hydrated.

Kyla:

So today we’re going to be chatting with Trudy about how to help your leaders step into the spotlight during all of the stuff that’s going on and helping them steer your organization in the right direction. But first we’re going to get to know Trudy just a little bit better.

Adam:

That’s right. It’s everyone’s favorite segment, Getting to know you. And the way it works, we got 30 seconds on the clock to ask you as many questions that we can. All you got to do is say the first thing that comes to mind. Trudy, are you ready?

Trudy:

Yes, I’m ready.

Adam:

Alright, let’s go. What’s your favorite snack?

Trudy:

Ooh, Cheetos.

Kyla:

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Trudy:

A writer.

Adam:

Cats or dogs? Choose wisely.

Trudy:

Dog, has to be.

Kyla:

Worst job that you’ve ever had?

Trudy:

Oh, look after back of the house of the hospitality, but of a hotel.

Adam:

Ooh. Last show you binged?

Trudy:

Sorry, last show I binged? Virgin River.

Kyla:

What’s the best city in the world?

Trudy:

I should say London, but I say New York. I love New York.

Adam:

Good choice. And finally, what’s your favorite self isolation/quarantine activity?

Trudy:

Oh, okay. Walking.

Adam:

Yes.

Trudy:

I’ve discovered walking in a park is brilliant.

Adam:

It’s funny how that a few months of like solid quarantine really made us all love the outdoors all over again.

Trudy:

Yeah.

Kyla:

New appreciation.

Adam:

Well, thank you Trudy. You’re such a good sport. Now that we’re acquainted a little bit, let’s get to it. And I see lots of comments in the chat so keep those coming. We’ll highlight some of them on the screen here. And if you have any questions, we will pass them on to Trudy as well. So with that Trudy, you do executive coaching and communication consulting. What are some common challenges that you’re seeing leaders facing today that need addressing?

Trudy:

Well, I think that some of the biggest things that they’re facing at the moment is the rate of change is probably what’s hitting them the most. And the fact that some of this rate of change, instead of it being them generating it is actually issues. So it’s things like COVID-19 is out of their control and I think that’s been a really big issue. The fact that it’s something brand new, nobody expected it, and it’s coming at them at a pace. But it’s making them have to make decisions about their company and how the company kind of [inaudible 00:04:53] going forward. So it’s quite a challenging time, I think.

Adam:

Yeah, it must be … sometimes they say that leadership is a lonely place to be. And I would imagine now if you don’t have the right supports, the right coaches in place, that would be doubly true. So there’s a lot going on this year, we’ve all gone through COVID-19, there’s some like very real revolution against racism going on right now. Black Lives Matter. It’s June, which is World Pride Month. A lot of this stuff for a lot of leaders isn’t necessarily natural and comfortable to speak to if they don’t feel expert. Can you talk about that relationship that you have with executives when you’re coaching them through how to show up for their employees in times like this?

Trudy:

Yeah, I think there’s a real difficulty in their minds because for a number of reasons. So we’re now all remotes so we’re no longer face to face. And many of them would have relied on that face to face element to connect with people. I think it’s making them face some of the issues that they probably wouldn’t have wanted to face or they can pass off to other parts of their team. And also it’s kind of difficult because they’re not used to working remotely. They’re not used to kind of not having the control that they used to have. Because there’s an element of that that’s kind of slightly moved away from them. And I can imagine for them, one of the things that you see is that level of responsibility that as everyday people we don’t perhaps focus on. They have the responsibility to kind of answer to shareholders. There are lots of different types of stakeholders that they have to deal with in addition to employees.

Trudy:

So whether it is kind of any element around diversity and inclusion or COVID-19, any crisis is going to be really difficult for them at this time simply because they have to look at the business results and where the business is going. They have to kind of look after people. They have to look after stakeholders and they have to make sure that the company is still profitable. Plus there’s that additional thing of, “What are we going to do for the future? How are we going to keep things sustainable?” So the myriad of things that you have to talk to people about are just unbelievable at the moment. And one of the big things for them is that need to be open, to stay open, and to kind of connect. So I think for me, it’s about being open and perhaps human enough to ask for help and to reach out for a little bit of support from people like communications people and not make the assumption that they can do it themselves or they know what to do. I think that’s the best way to deal with it really.

Kyla:

And can you talk to us a little bit about where some organizations are going wrong in the midst of all this and what communicators can do to sort of steer them back in the right direction?

Trudy:

So some were doing, I mentioned a little while ago about making assumptions, and I think that’s where some of them are going wrong. They are making assumptions about what the problem is. They’re not actually really addressing the things based on their own values and their own kind of purpose and social purpose. So for instance they might say, “We would like to do this. We might want to do a poster campaign,” or, “I might want to do something that kind of shows that we are aligning ourselves to,” say for instance, I’ll use an example BLM, Black Lives Matter. Let’s show that we’re aligned to these issues, but it doesn’t translate into the organization. So a big kind of thing that they did wrong is they might go to the Comms team and say, “Could you put out or could you put together a nice campaign to cover this? To include people about pride, to talk about COVID,” or whatever. Then this lovely campaign is done, but nobody actually sees it within the organization.

Trudy:

And I think it’s easy to do that, but the actual people that you’re engaging with, they see right through that. And they’re kind of thinking, “Well, we’re not living that. So we don’t see the point.” And the communicators, I think the biggest thing that they can do is just come alongside leadership and be something that we don’t like to be, a little bit assertive and kind of step into that space and say, “Look, the reason why I’m objecting to this or the reason why I’m suggesting that we do this differently is because this is how it’s going to come across.” And perhaps make that suggestion of, “Could we try and listen to staff? Could we do something to engage with them a little bit differently because these are really different times.” We’ve never gone through this before.

Trudy:

So from the Comms person, I think the big thing that they need to do with their leaders is listen to what their leaders have to say. Because as I said earlier, the leader has a number of challenges way beyond kind of employee engagement. But then also come alongside them with some common sense to say, “We want to do things this way. We’re suggesting that we communicate this way and here’s why we’re going to do it. And here’s how the benefit is going to be derived.” So it’s sort of … and being creative I think. I think I always talk about being a diplomat as a communications person.

Kyla:

And it is a skill that communicators seems to have to master cause there’s so many things to balance. And speaking of diplomacy and really having to step up in that, when we talk about things like Pride Month or Black Lives Matter, we might think of them falling under the umbrella of diversity and inclusion. Which tends to be an HR initiative, something that HR is responsible for doing and maybe communication helps out, but they’re not necessarily driving that. So do you see HR and communications clashing in this process? And how can communicators work with HR instead of ramming up against them?

Trudy:

Yeah. It’s always a clash between HR and Comms. And I think it always will be because the priorities are different and a big function from their side is that they know how to do Comms. And also they’re more into the program side so I don’t think they fully understand some of why we do what we do. We put an emphasis on audience and message and delivery and so we will ask things often that they’re not, perhaps not willing to do. And it’s quite interesting in a time of COVID and change they are the most resistant because there are things that they think they can’t share with staff. And then communications on the other side is kind of making a demand on them, “You need to share this. You need to talk about this and we will sit with you and try and shape that so that it doesn’t contravene kind of the things that you have to keep private. But we can work with you.”

Trudy:

So I think there’s always a kind of tension between the two. I think the best thing is actually way beyond COVID and so on is just build those relationships. I think the biggest … I’ve had difficult HR people to deal with, but I’ve also had really great relationships with HR because many of them at the heart of it, they want to help people. They want people to be engaged. So when you come at it from the angle of actually we’re not at [inaudible 00:12:37] where we’re kind of … we want to work together. We actually have a common goal.

Trudy:

It’s just that we need to acknowledge that and acknowledge that we’re going to come at the problem from different angles. And if we work together, we will get a really great outcome. So it’s almost saying don’t avoid them because some will say, “Oh, I can’t be bothered with HR. They’re so troublesome. It’s so difficult.” Some would say that, but I would say don’t let that stop you from engaging with your HR people. They are just as much committed to engagement most of the time as you are, it’s just that they’re looking at it differently.

Adam:

Yeah. We at Bananatag have started to see more and more HR teams coming in and working with us and wanting excellent employee communication and engagement. You’re right, it’s just sometimes you come at it in different ways.

Trudy:

Yeah.

Adam:

Our Head of People and Culture here, Agata, we’ve had her on the show before and just absolute dream to collaborate with. And so when that relationship works really well, it’s a beautiful thing. But no reason to be afraid of a little bit of constructive debate.

Trudy:

Yeah, we need it.

Adam:

Well speaking of HR, we do want to touch on a particularly touchy subject right now that numerous organizations are thinking about. A number of companies have had to furlough employees during COVID-19 and now we’re about to enter basically month five of it, at least in North America. These organizations are faced with the decision of how many employees they may actually need to let go permanently depending on how hard they’ve been hit. So when you’ve been working with organizations who are navigating this kind of negative change, how do you go about handling communications so that employees aren’t left with a really bad taste in their mouth on the other end of it?

Trudy:

Yeah, it’s a really difficult one. And I think the hardest part of it is that, I mentioned it before with HR, so between HR and the leadership team who are making those big decisions there’s a sense that they feel that they’re not supposed to share that with people and will only tell them what they need to know. And as a result, many times they bring Comms in quite late. Once they do, once they bring Comms in late, then we have a challenge because we are playing catch up and sometimes we don’t get the full picture so it’s difficult for us to communicate. So one of the main things that needs to happen is that leadership and HR are kind of open enough to involve Comms from day one. And day one with COVID, which was not expected is quite difficult. And what Comms people have done is stepped up and done some amazing work throughout the whole period.

Trudy:

But now that we’re coming into the point where we’re going to have to make some decisions. It’s again, I think it goes back to being a little bit assertive on our part to say, “I know this is coming. How can we support you?” Because everybody who’s been out there working from home, furloughed, everybody’s had a different experience. So we can’t take it for granted that we can speak to them in the same way, that we can share the same messages. We have to kind of have a think about how that’s going to land with them. Some of them have had mental health issues, some of them have been great. You’ve had this real variant of the workforce out and about working remotely. You now have to tell them some hard news and some of that might have to be done remotely as well.

Trudy:

And I think it’s about kind of shaping communications from a leadership perspective so that they have messages with that sense of empathy in it, understanding that this isn’t going to be easy. I’m sure every employee at the back of their mind is thinking, “It’s very possible that I will lose my job out of this.” But it’s actually to work with them and talk to them in a much better way than we have been. It’s challenging because if you weren’t like that before, and then you’re suddenly going to try and do all of these columns with them, they can feel a bit bitter about that. But I think-

Kyla:

Yeah.

Trudy:

I think what comes across more powerfully is the honesty and being genuine about what’s wrong and why you have to do this and how you’re going to help them. And the minute leadership is a bit more open with how they communicate and don’t just pass it off on sending them letters and emails, just make it a bit more personal. Let leadership be visible. All of those types of things that will let employees understand that this isn’t just an easy decision. It’s just not done because we just … yeah, it’s the next step. But that they really care about people. It’s that care and empathy that needs to come across in all of the Comms, I think that will help with that bitter taste in their mouth.

Kyla:

And I think it was Airbnb, I think at the beginning of COVID they sent out … they were getting a lot of respect for their layoff letter that they did. And it was so, what was really interesting about that one was that they did the letter and it was very empathetic. It was very heartfelt. It was very honest.

Trudy:

Yeah.

Kyla:

And then what they did for all of their employees is they set up a job site for them, they uploaded all the people they had to lay off onto this site and then like put it out in a press release. So people who were hiring had access to all these amazing people, which is like talk about doing the thing. Like you say that you’re supporting people and you really follow through. And I think we’re seeing with everything, whether it’s COVID or layoffs or Black Lives Matter or Pride Month or whatever, it’s like you really as leaders, you got to put your money where your mouth is. People are watching and they’re paying attention and you’ve seen so many people do it and do it well, but it’s like there’s no excuses. Lip service is not going to make it anymore.

Trudy:

No, it’s not.

Kyla:

It’s just not going to work.

Trudy:

It’s not. And I mean, there are two things out of that. It’s about listening to your people. So if you’re going to say you’ve got these hard issues that you’re going to have to communicate to them, find ways to hear from them, give them a safe space to kind of share and vent what’s going on with them. And then also include them in the solution. I mean, how many employees kind of know that there are ways that we could cut costs without it ending up in losing a job? So I think there’s that whole thing of listening to your employees as well and kind of giving them a space to share, which comes back to somebody like an Airbnb who thought much wider than, “Oh, we just have to cut jobs.”

Kyla:

Yeah.

Adam:

We got some good comments coming in from the audience. Catriona said, “Being honest and genuine is so important. Well said Trudy Lewis.” Amy Olsen, “Listening to the ask behind the ask is necessary for diplomacy and to provide the best possible counsel. Calling those hard questions is tough but essential to help executives channel their energies for both good intent and good result.” That’s what I love about this show is we’ve got smart people as guests and smart people in the chat. It’s just a whole circle of smart people. And Advita Patel, “Loved the way Airbnb managed difficult news.” Now Trudy, as always time flies. We’re down to our last eight minutes. I can’t believe it.

Trudy:

Oh wow.

Adam:

And what that means is it is time for our next segment, which is the Tool Tip of the Day.

Trudy:

Okay.

Adam:

So why don’t you walk us through your tip.

Trudy:

Okay. So the tool I chose is a planning tool and it’s kind of for teams, but it can also be used for projects. And I just like it because it’s one of those things that we do when we have a team or a project. We rush with all of the tasks and all the things to do, but we don’t focus on, “What’s the purpose? Why are we doing it? What are the values that are important?” And some kind of contracting, which is where rules and action points come in.

Trudy:

So I really love this because it’s a real nice way of just kind of brainstorming all of the information that you need to kind of get your project off the ground. And if you were kind of dealing with a team, it’s the clarity that they will get out of this to actually be able to all be moving at the same pace. And one of the things that’s at the top of that page, it actually talks about what this does. And it actually means that the team works purposefully. Productivity is heightened and stress is relieved. And stress is really, because you just know what you’re doing. And so I really love this tool. It’s just really useful to … I do a lot of kind of mind mapping. So things like this where it kind of encourages mind mapping are really, really useful.

Adam:

I love that. That’s great. Thank you for sharing that.

Trudy:

And we have … Friedel asked in the chat will we be sharing the template? Yes. If you go to the Bananatag Morning Show link, which we can put in the chat, sign up, we send out a show summary and all the links to all the resources. And of course you can contact Trudy directly if you’re interested in following up.

Adam:

Meanwhile, just before we throw it back to you Trudy, we have some exciting guests coming up. Including very soon and we will be interviewing Abby Guthkelch from Workplace for Facebook. Very exciting. She was a keynote at the IABC world conference last week virtually and she’ll be sitting down to talk to us here on the Morning Show. And we’re also very excited that you never have to miss an upcoming show. If you enjoyed today, which how could you not? Trudy is fantastic. You can sign up to get Morning Show reminders, expert content that we discussed in the show, as well as more resources from us coming out of our conversations.

Kyla:

Absolutely. And if you’ve been following us for a while you know that Bananatag has been leading the industry in our email design and measurement tools. But things are changing. We’re changing, the world’s changing, everything’s changing. And we are not just email anymore. So yes, we have the coolest, most collaborative, easiest to use email designer in the game. But now we’re branching into multichannel. That means that you can now send and schedule messages to Slack and soon to Microsoft Teams. So if you’re curious about all that, definitely click on the link in the chat and you can connect with one of our Banana fam and get a personalized tour of Bananatag and see everything that we can do.

Kyla:

And Trudy, thank you so much for being here. What a treat. Always a pleasure to talk to you. Do you have any parting words for our audience?

Trudy:

I think for me it’s about kind of being clear on what we’re doing. Be willing to connect with people and to understand what we’re trying to develop and what we’re trying to build for them. Being confident that we have the skills and the knowledge to do that. Get the facts and be decisive because I think people really need us to step up and be decision makers. And where we need help, ask for help. So reach out to those who might know more than you or might have an expertise that you don’t have or just simply can give you a little bit of support because I know at this time we’re working so much.

Kyla:

Absolutely. That’s great advice. So you heard it, ask for help. You can connect with Trudy, you can connect with us, you can connect with everybody in the chat. And we’ll see you all next week. Thanks for tuning in. Have a good one. Bye.

Adam:

Bye. Trudy, this happens to be the first time that Kyla and I are in the same building doing the show.

Trudy:

Oh wow.

Adam:

But because of COVID, we’ve stayed 30 feet apart.

Kyla:

We’re at opposite ends of the office.

Trudy:

Oh my gosh. That’s so funny.