Communication is king: Lessons from company secretaries and governance professionals

5 November 2020

By Chrissie Davis

Company secretary communicating to stakeholders - Eximia communications

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One role that has evolved over the past decade is that of the company secretary.

Gone are the days when company secretaries were perceived as mere administrators rather than experts in corporate governance and compliance.

In 2020, these trusted advisors are the ones oiling the machine and ensuring companies run smoothly to achieve their goals.

Whilst there are many things they can do as a profession to continue to move up the value chain, the key component that’s propelling this change is strong communication skills.

Don’t let the word ‘secretary’ fool you, this position is no longer simply an administrative one, but one that has incredible influence over what and how decisions are made by being the link between stakeholders.

And during the latest Association of Women Chartered Secretaries’ (AWCS) webinar – ‘How the company secretary can add value and move up the value chain’ – industry experts pinpointed building relationships as the way CoSecs can best deliver for their business.

A number of lessons were discussed in the session, such as not being a people pleaser, making time to plan, be proactive, not reactive and the need to challenge the process. All great advice in and out of the CoSec world.

But time after time the conversation came back to the importance of forming strong stakeholder relationships, both internally and externally, and this all comes down to good communication.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Communications shouldn’t be a one way street, and being encouraged to ask questions is fundamental to driving engagement.

The CoSec experts encouraged their audience to adopt the mindset of new starters, as they’re the ones who generally embrace this after first stepping through the door – but the more familiar they become with their role and surroundings, the less they tend to do this.

However, this shouldn’t only apply to company secretaries. All employees should look at everything they see and do with fresh eyes.

Questions such as ‘why do we do it this way?’, ‘are there people we can collaborate with?’ or ‘how are we adding value with this?’ will help everyone progress and ultimately benefit the organisation.

The habit of questioning things should be encouraged by leaders to turn everyone into better communicators, turning this into the cultural norm.

Build relationships at all levels

Company secretaries’ success is dependent on the people around them, so becoming masters at building and managing relationships.

They make it their business to understand the issues stakeholders are facing, and find solutions to these challenges.

This is a skill everyone can benefit from, but it’s easier said than done.

It begins with identifying individuals and teams who are fundamental to the delivery of key objectives, and starting conversations with them, whether that’s sending an email or an instant message – or when we eventually spend more time back in the office – asking for a 20 minute chat over a coffee. It sounds basic, but so many employees only stop and take the time to do this when a project is looming or a deadline is pending.

You’ll not necessarily know which direction this discussion will go, but look to uncover their pain points and be prepared to see opportunities to help; and if you don’t have the solution, the more people you communicate with the better chance you’ll have of being able to bring the right talent together.

This simple, often overlooked approach, might be uncomfortable for some, but if you look at the rise of company secretaries over the past decade – who often find themselves as a cornerstone of the decision making process – then surely all employees would benefit from broadening their network.

The COVID pandemic may have forced many employees to physically work apart, but with the right communication mindset, we can be closer together and achieve more than ever before.

If you’d like communications coaching and training to improve how you engage with stakeholders, Eximia is here to help you inspire conversations and challenge the process.

Chrissie Davis

Founder and Chartered Secretary

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