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“Find what matters to you, what you are passionate about and bring it to your work. You don’t need a title to show leadership.” – Gabrielle Dolan

Just do you is an expression that has come into common parlance. It may as well have been coined by IABC member, author and thought leader Gabrielle Dolan known for publishing, speaking and teaching on authentic leadership. She took up a bar stool alongside IABC Victoria President Sia Papageorgiou at Melbourne’s Hightail Bar on Thursday 4 April to discuss real communication and authentic leadership with an audience of 80 people.

Gabrielle Dolan says authentic leadership is hard to define, but easy to sense, and that no matter what your logic says, whether someone is authentic is almost a gut reaction. Even so, there are ways we can all practise authentic leadership and communicate in a way that is real, using our own voice. And, as strategic communication professionals it’s perhaps one of the most impactful contributions we can make in counselling leaders.

Now it’s more important than ever to be real in how we communicate. This is because we live and work in an environment where the stakes are high and trust is low. People are more mobile, savvy and informed than ever before. The way world leaders and politicians communicate has given rise to greater cynicism, and this translates to the workplace.

Employees expect communication that is fast, direct and genuine. According to Gabrielle, “people are seeing through the crap”. Therefore, it is imperative to use plain language and avoid acronyms, weasel words and jargon. This is music to the ears of communication professionals, but how can we bring our expertise to bear when various rounds of internal or client approvals see corporate-speak creeping back in? How can I make a difference as a communication professional who is more junior in the hierarchy than the people I advise and assist? Gabrielle has this advice: “Don’t concern yourself with others, role model what you want to see. Work with leaders to help them find their voice but understand that you won’t be able to change everyone. Focus on what you can do and be the change you want to see.”

Ultimately, it’s about using real words to create understanding and as communication experts, we have a crucial role to play. Many people seem to think that acronyms and business jargon is the proper way to talk at work – as communication professionals, we can fuel this way of communicating to we can be part of the solution for clearer communication. There is plenty of evidence that use of jargon and acronyms slows the reader down, isolates people who don’t know what is meant by the special language spoken by those who seem to be in the know, and leads to miscommunication. Gabrielle says that people think they are being efficient when they use acronyms. However, it puts all of the onus on the receiver of the message. “It disconnects and isolates people, when our job is to engage and connect people,” says Gabrielle.

Why is jargon so commonly used at work? Likely reasons include:

  • Avoidance of an unpalatable truth (e.g. right sizing of services, downsizing of teams)
  • To sound more intelligent
  • For acceptance within the group (because everyone else seems to be saying it)

One of the best questions we can ask as communication professionals is: What do you mean by that? Because unless everyone knows, they don’t feel included in the conversation. Importantly, they can’t act on the information, or they may act on information that they don’t understand with unintended consequences.

Gabrielle finished on a positive note about the power of storytelling, saying, “Great leaders and presenters share stories, and people can be taught how to tell stories better”.  Confident in the value she knows this will bring to leaders, she has developed her own voice, writing blogs and books in the same way she talks, overcoming a fear of what others may think to get her message out there.

Participants took away much food for thought and an advance copy of Gabrielle’s fifth and latest book Real Communication: How to Be You and Lead True (Wiley). The book is available in good book stores around the world from May 2019.

In case you missed our event

Booktopia is offering a 20% discount on Gabrielle’s new book – pre-order your copy today.

View more highlights of the evening with Gabrielle below:

Real Communication – Gabrielle Dolan from IABC Victoria on Vimeo.