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What Nelson Mandela Can Teach Us about Internal Communications

What Nelson Mandela Can Teach Us about Internal Communications

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. Nelson Mandela

Few would deny Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was one of the greatest and most inspiring leaders of modern times.

The Nobel Peace Prize he shared in 1993, however, only recognised a small part of this leader's genius as he was also a philosopher, orator and one who cherished humanity and justice.

In addition, as history shows in black and white, he was a miracle maker, bringing peace to a country divided and scarred by apartheid for half a century.

If anyone has lessons to convey about communications, it's Mandela, and the quote we began with is equally appropriate in the realm of internal communications.

At Mumba our interpretation of Mandela's quote is that internal communications can in fact benefit greatly by incorporating the best of both worlds.

Not only should we communicate with management and staff in an accurate and truthful way they can easily comprehend, but companies should also understand, cherish and incorporate the emotive side into internal communications.

There is an old saying that proclaims "it's not what you say, but how you say it," that's important, and this is very relevant in the current context.

Like any healthy relationship, trust is highly crucial in an organisation and the manner and quality of internal communications can often make or break how management and staff perceive those at the top, the brand more broadly, and whether or not the brand is in sync with them, and if they wish to associate with this culture.

Emotive elements in internal communications can often enhance the feeling of trust by engendering a human touch.

Communications that are factual but cold and stoic may fulfil some requirements but if perpetuated can have a negative impact in many circumstances, arguably beyond that of even a complete lack of communications.

This is especially so if it perceived that the 'C Suite,' or HR hasn't taken the views, feelings and sentiments of those receiving the communications into account.

Little wonder, therefore, that both a lack of communication and a failure to communicate in the right manner accounts for much dissatisfaction and attrition in the workforce, as research bears out.

In fact some research, including a recent study by the National Business Research Institute in the USA lists this at number 1# in this regard.

After all, how can you trust a company that won't even take the trouble to at least understand situations from a staff perspective and acknowledge these, irrespective of the final negotiations and outcomes?

Another area to avoid is communicating with staff in a condescending way, and in this regard your organisation's tone of voice is crucial.

People do not appreciate being spoken 'down to' even if they do hold 'lesser' positions than those sending the message. Staff reason that you wouldn't dream of using this tone of voice to customers, so why do this internally? And they would be right. And you would be left, being very poorly perceived.

So next time you communicate with your staff internally take cognisance of Mandela's words of wisdom, or like the 1955 James Dean classic, you may find that your workforce become rebels, but in this instance with a very real cause.

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