Our Blog:
Public Affairs Insights from the Centre


10 Jan 2012

Insights to managing yourself more effectively

Wayne Burns

How they manage themselves is the essential 'self-raising' ingredient to the success of most highly accomplished, respected, in-demand (and highly paid) corporate public affairs executives.

In our end of 2011 discussions at the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs, including among our affiliates in the US, Asia and Europe, we collated what we thought were the five most useful, yet simple self-management insights from CEOs, senior executives and leading thinkers with whom we have worked over the past year. Five insights to managing yourself more effectively in 2012 (or things to avoid doing):

1. Don't get locked into a one-time, solve everything, strategy planning. Approach strategy and planning with flexibility and rigour. This may sound incongruous, but it's not. Instead of squashing corporate public affairs planning into one session annually, we suggest you may want to develop strategy in the following flexible manner, but adhere to the strategy with some rigour, so that public affairs effort does not take a detour. Value-destruction in corporate public affairs occurs when the function b

How they manage themselves is the essential 'self-raising' ingredient to the success of most highly accomplished, respected, in-demand (and highly paid) corporate public affairs executives.

In our end of 2011 discussions at the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs, including among our affiliates in the US, Asia and Europe, we collated what we thought were the five most useful, yet simple self-management insights from CEOs, senior executives and leading thinkers with whom we have worked over the past year.

Five insights to managing yourself more effectively in 2012 (or things to avoid doing):


1. Don't get locked into a one-time, solve everything, strategy planning. Approach strategy and planning with flexibility and rigour. This may sound incongruous, but it's not. Instead of squashing corporate public affairs planning into one session annually, we suggest you may want to develop strategy in the following flexible manner, but adhere to the strategy with some rigour, so that public affairs effort does not take a detour. Value-destruction in corporate public affairs occurs when the function becomes reactive, pulled every which way, and generating a conga-line of inputs and outputs driven by the vagaries of external events.

    a. Meet with business units to capture and understand their existing and potential issues, as well as their thoughts about the organisation's strategic direction.

    b. Only after this, develop a draft corporate affairs strategy, taking into account business unit objectives, and be able to link each corporate affairs objective to a business objective.

    c. Agree to the draft strategy with business line heads, and with the company's executive leadership team.

    d. This is the most important element — conduct quarterly corporate public affairs strategy reviews with line business, and if possible the executive leadership team, to identify decisions that must be taken, or new issues that must be addressed, to deliver the strategy.

    This formula takes into account that the socio-political environment within which the corporate public affairs function operates changes rapidly, but also marries the function to strategic outcomes, which will guide the activity and approaches it employs to deliver strategy as it interacts with the organisation's socio-political universe. We counsel also that a function that is 'too busy' to develop, review and focus on strategy, will be a management function that is less able to generate organisational value, and measure and report that value.

2. Don't let information manage you. When you were last on leave/vacation, which information sources (blogs, magazine subscriptions, daily news alerts) did you find you did not miss, or could do without? If you did not miss them, get rid of them — or delegate someone else in your team to be across the information in them. Also, we counsel that if your slimmed down must-read subscription or website list does not include an information source about how to be a better manager, or provide insights into management innovation, identify one, and cull an existing subscription or newsfeed so you can add a management publication to your essential-only information reading.

3. Don't be the 'go to' person for everything. One of the most difficult things for many corporate public affairs executives is to say 'no' to a request from another executive. The best management functions are not excellent because they say yes to everything and do everything, but because they focus on what is most important, and generate value by doing that. The most effective tools to make sure the corporate public affairs function does not become the organisation's problem dump/executive staff email drafting/Powerpoint presentation generation unit/counselling service for twitter-addicted but issues management-novice senior executives, is an agreed corporate public affairs strategy, and a system to measure public affairs outcomes (rather than inputs and outputs). We have observed also that Heads of Function and senior discipline managers that encourage and nurture relationships between senior executives and competent, senior corporate public affairs executives in their teams, can more readily delegate tasks and responsibilities, but remain accountable for outcomes without having to work 23 hours of every day.

4. No plan? Don't play ball. It's the start of a new calendar or financial year. There is a burst of new plans, initiatives and projects from across the organisation that require corporate public affairs time, commitments to meetings, resources, and possibly secondments. Sounds familiar? Looking back on last year, how many of these projects and plans never got off the ground in your own organisation, but took up much of your time and that of your team regardless? Our counsel is to request a project plan (with budget), including objectives, timelines and expected deliverables before committing corporate public affairs time and resources to a project or initiative. If these elements have not been considered — and until they are — you may be saving scores or hundreds of hours by saying no.

5. Don't forget about yourself. What have you done for yourself lately? Even if you do not get to use the time, block out half a day in your diary each quarter as 'professional planning'. Use that time — or even the thought that the time is in your schedule — to think about and plot the capabilities, skills, tools and resources that you think you will need as a professional to deliver on your professional performance goals, and your corporate public affairs strategic objectives during the next three to six months. If you are able, get out of the office to do this (I use the State Library). Turn the smartphone off, and apply the discipline of making a list of challenges and roadblocks; check your progress against your list from last quarter; or use the time to talk to a mentor (or someone you trust and respect in your own organisation) about your thoughts, concerns or progress. Disregarding your own professional well-being will do nothing for your ambitions to become an outstanding corporate public affairs executive.

By applying even one of these approaches, we hope you will have more time to focus on your work, on innovation and on pursuing your own professional development and that of your people. ecomes reactive, pulled every which way, and generating a conga-line of inputs and outputs driven by the vagaries of external events.

    a. Meet with business units to capture and understand their existing and potential issues, as well as their thoughts about the organisation's strategic direction.

    b. Only after this, develop a draft corporate affairs strategy, taking into account business unit objectives, and be able to link each corporate affairs objective to a business objective.

    c. Agree to the draft strategy with business line heads, and with the company's executive leadership team.

    d. This is the most important element — conduct quarterly corporate public affairs strategy reviews with line business, and if possible the executive leadership team, to identify decisions that must be taken, or new issues that must be addressed, to deliver the strategy.

    This formula takes into account that the socio-political environment within which the corporate public affairs function operates changes rapidly, but also marries the function to strategic outcomes, which will guide the activity and approaches it employs to deliver strategy as it interacts with the organisation's socio-political universe. We counsel also that a function that is 'too busy' to develop, review and focus on strategy, will be a management function that is less able to generate organisational value, and measure and report that value.

2. Don't let information manage you. When you were last on leave/vacation, which information sources (blogs, magazine subscriptions, daily news alerts) did you find you did not miss, or could do without? If you did not miss them, get rid of them — or delegate someone else in your team to be across the information in them. Also, we counsel that if your slimmed down must-read subscription or website list does not include an information source about how to be a better manager, or provide insights into management innovation, identify one, and cull an existing subscription or newsfeed so you can add a management publication to your essential-only information reading.

3. Don't be the 'go to' person for everything. One of the most difficult things for many corporate public affairs executives is to say 'no' to a request from another executive. The best management functions are not excellent because they say yes to everything and do everything, but because they focus on what is most important, and generate value by doing that. The most effective tools to make sure the corporate public affairs function does not become the organisation's problem dump/executive staff email drafting/Powerpoint presentation generation unit/counselling service for twitter-addicted but issues management-novice senior executives, is an agreed corporate public affairs strategy, and a system to measure public affairs outcomes (rather than inputs and outputs). We have observed also that Heads of Function and senior discipline managers that encourage and nurture relationships between senior executives and competent, senior corporate public affairs executives in their teams, can more readily delegate tasks and responsibilities, but remain accountable for outcomes without having to work 23 hours of every day.

4. No plan? Don't play ball. It's the start of a new calendar or financial year. There is a burst of new plans, initiatives and projects from across the organisation that require corporate public affairs time, commitments to meetings, resources, and possibly secondments. Sounds familiar? Looking back on last year, how many of these projects and plans never got off the ground in your own organisation, but took up much of your time and that of your team regardless? Our counsel is to request a project plan (with budget), including objectives, timelines and expected deliverables before committing corporate public affairs time and resources to a project or initiative. If these elements have not been considered — and until they are — you may be saving scores or hundreds of hours by saying no.

5. Don't forget about yourself. What have you done for yourself lately? Even if you do not get to use the time, block out half a day in your diary each quarter as 'professional planning'. Use that time — or even the thought that the time is in your schedule — to think about and plot the capabilities, skills, tools and resources that you think you will need as a professional to deliver on your professional performance goals, and your corporate public affairs strategic objectives during the next three to six months. If you are able, get out of the office to do this (I use the State Library). Turn the smartphone off, and apply the discipline of making a list of challenges and roadblocks; check your progress against your list from last quarter; or use the time to talk to a mentor (or someone you trust and respect in your own organisation) about your thoughts, concerns or progress. Disregarding your own professional well-being will do nothing for your ambitions to become an outstanding corporate public affairs executive.

By applying even one of these approaches, we hope you will have more time to focus on your work, on innovation and on pursuing your own professional development and that of your people.

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