Monday 3 September 2018
Hi, I’m Krishan Lathigra and I lead the internal communication team at the Department for Exiting the European Union, working with the senior leadership team and others to shape our engagement with colleagues who are working hard to get the best deal for the United Kingdom.
It’s a brilliant place to work – I am in awe of the dedication, energy and friendliness of colleagues.
Work email: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. What was your first ever job?
A management trainee at NatWest Bank in Stratford, east London. I absolutely loved working in branch banking – I did everything from cashiering to share transactions. The toughest role was lending. Unbelievable, but I once approved an overdraft for a former teacher. I left branch banking to go to Loughborough university because I saw that graduates progressed faster than others.
2. How did you get into internal communications?
Sheer persistence, hard work, and a bit of luck. After a long spell as a client-side research manager at a global bank and government agency I decided to shift into communications. But it was a nightmare trying to get an internal comms role. Nobody was willing to take a chance on me. It made me even more determined to succeed. I studied for a CIPR qualification, built IC knowledge at events and while Head of Research at the FCO I volunteered for IC projects. It was utterly exhausting, but I was consciously building my evidence base. Catherine Morris (then Head of IC at FCO) gave me a break in her team – I went on to become Head of Internal Communication – it is a career highlight. I owe everything to Catherine and also Anna Clunes a diplomat at the FCO. Rachel Miller is also my inspiration.
3. What about your job most excites you?
Working with senior leadership teams – helping shape engagement activity is a privilege and a responsibility. I have a weekly meeting with the Permanent Secretary’s office and meet him every month. I also had effective working relationships with senior leaders at the FCO – Matthew Rycroft, Menna Rawlings, and Simon McDonald had good internal comms instincts. Prioritise your relationships with leaders and the people who influence them!
4. What do you think makes a good internal communicator?
Good relationship builder – getting round the business to understand priorities and what your/your team’s role is in helping to achieve them through strategically planned internal communication and engagement.
Self-confidence to say “no” to well meaning, but utterly misguided requests for communication. You’re employed to give your advice – give it. Sure there will be times when you have to reluctantly say OK, but that should be rare.
The ability to cut through (quite ruthlessly) on what the crux of a message or engagement should be. Cut the waffle, get to the point. Colleagues don’t have time.
5. What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Tough one. I love books. But I guess the first to come to mind is “A very British coup” by Chris Mullin. It’s a political drama set in the 1980s – about how ‘the establishment’ plot to bring down a newly elected socialist Prime Minister. The screenplay was a masterpiece in storytelling. Please don’t make any judgements about my own politics – it was a piece of fiction. A close second is “White Tiger” by Arivinda Adiga, an un-put-downable commentary on class in India. Best comms book is “No Cape Required” by David Grossman.
6. What’s the biggest challenge for internal communications and how do you see it getting solved?
Not a challenge, more an opportunity (sorry, that sounds so corny).
It’s a cliché to say so, but we’re living through a time of unprecedented change in so many parts of our lives. Organisations are transforming themselves in order to adapt to technology, societal changes and of course the political environment. Internal communicators need to be attuned to the transformation, ensuring that they are leading and influencing engagement with colleagues.
7. If you could ban one piece of jargon what would it be and why?
Jargon I can just about deal with – any industry has its own. But, everybody should have Orwell’s rules for effective writing on their desks (see below). Number three is my favourite.
1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
8. What have you learned from any mistakes in your career?
Be quick to apologise and deal with the mistake swiftly.
Support your team. As a leader the buck stops with you even if it’s someone in your team who has made an error.
Take time when making recruitment decisions. Better to leave gaps (and reprioritise work) than recruit individuals who turn out to be the wrong fit.
Have perspective: stuff happens, don’t be too hard on yourself.
9. Who is the person you most want to meet and why?
Amir Khan – a leading actor and director in the Hindi film industry. He’s made some brilliant films. Check out Three Idiots, PK, and Lagaan – three of his most famous films. I’d love to understand how he creates compelling narratives and moods. In some of my wilder moments I’d love to Bollywoodify internal comms.