Commonwealth Government of Australia
No more misfired messaging: helping a government team build influence at the highest levels
Lyn Harvey, a leader in a federal government department, leads a team of 18 people responsible for managing the environmental resources and departmental infrastructure worth billions of dollars across the country. After attending our Building Visibility and Influence Masterclass for women in the public sector, Lyn clarified her own leadership vision: to achieve net zero on carbon emissions for these assets. To achieve this bold vision, her team would need to build influence at the highest levels, and gain buy-in from many complex stakeholder groups across multiple departments, divisions and geographic locations.
Although the team culture was sound, Lyn felt there was an opportunity to take the team’s communication skills to the next level, while simultaneously building greater self-awareness, collaboration and acceptance of one another’s styles. She saw that when under pressure, tensions arose and communication misfired - both within the team and more broadly. She felt that there could be a better understanding of stakeholder needs, and taking a more strategic approach to communication and engagement. “For me, it is about skilling my team and broader stakeholders in being able to communicate effectively and look for a win-win solution… My aim is to give my team the toolbox to look at things from a different perspective, take leadership and sit comfortably with the discomfort that comes from being visible in a new place.”
Visibility Co delivered a tailored program, Communicating for Influence, in three sessions across three weeks for Lyn and her team. In the first session, Visibility Co directors Julia May and Sarah Anderson observed each unit in the team present their strategic updates. The whole team was then taken through the Three Pillars of Visibility; our influencing framework, GAMPER; and debriefed on 4MAT, a diagnostic shedding light on learning and communications styles. The sessions were tailored to the team’s needs, to enable communications and engagement that is human, strategic, has stakeholder needs at its heart, and with messaging that lands every time. Each team was then asked to redo their strategic presentations using what they’d learned, and given individualised feedback. There was a dramatic improvement and noticeable use of storytelling, empathy, data, case studies, team collaboration and clear calls to action. The teams committed to using the tools on a day-to-day basis, in every setting including team meetings and performance reviews.
The immediate feedback from the team was exceptional, with 90% of attendees rating the program 4 out of 5 or above for its usefulness, and 90% of attendees saying that the sessions and tools were very transferable to their work environment. Participants noted that the tools were useful in a range of settings, from “working together better with our team, [because] we have a range of personalities with styles that lead to miscommunication. This will make us better understood and help us with options to get the message across.”
Several months after the series, Lyn reported back that she saw a dramatic improvement in the visibility of her team members to other teams and departments, and a much greater awareness of the need for strategic engagement. She said there had been significant change in the way her team were engaging with one another and that they now have a shared language around communication styles: “The results have been amazing and instant.” She said that having consistent tools for developing their stakeholder engagement approaches created a smoother strategic process, and that they now apply GAMPER and 4MAT to every engagement opportunity, from team meetings, departmental reports, policy documents, presentation preparation and performance reviews. “I now have team members speaking up with confidence in open forums who had previously remained silent, and those who were always vocal are allowing other team members the space to speak and be heard. As a team, we now have a common frame from which to communicate and be sure the message is heard. “