My dear old Dad used to say he was always happiest when “all of his birds were in the nest”.
His birds were, of course, his kids. He’d have done – and did – anything for those little birds. Right or wrong, he’d protect, support, help and nurture them and he’d flap and flutter whenever one of those birds left his well-kept nest.
I used to think that this was really funny, especially given he was a pretty tough cookie, unnervingly street-wise and the youngest of six kids from one of Birmingham’s harsher neighbourhoods.
Although he’d never let on he was a real big softie deep down. But you’d never cross him as that tough early upbringing ran deep inside but which at the same time only served to strengthen his sense of family-first and unswerving loyalty to those he allowed into his nest.
This mother-hen approach followed him into the world of work and never more so than when he became a manager of his own team. The burden of responsibility weighed heavy on him at times, particularly when tough decisions needed to be made. He wouldn’t hesitate to tell someone straight if they had fouled up but he was also fiercely loyal and so when any of his brood were at risk he’d take it as a personal affront and see to it that wrongs were righted.
Of course, this approach isn’t so easy to stand by these days.
We’re in tricky times. Budget cuts, job losses, financial uncertainty and a sense now that things previously unthinkable are now, well, thinkable.
Those people out there who manage staff know only too well that this provides a whole new layer of responsibility. A responsibility which should not be underestimated.
In the past couple of weeks I have spoken to colleagues from three separate organisations that will be seeing cuts to their comms teams in the coming months. It’s genuinely scary stuff.
And even if your job isn’t currently at risk, it still feels as though it is, right?
The stark reality is that there will be fewer comms jobs in the public sector, and particularly local government, over the coming years. And new jobs are simply not being created in sufficient numbers to cancel out this worrying trend.
So whether you’re a manager or a member of a team what is the best way of developing – not feathering - your own nest and the nests of those around you?
Here is a simple five point plan which should go some way to protecting those nests we value so much:
- Don’t work harder, work smarter. Concentrate on the things which actually make a difference. Try hard each day not to get dragged into some of the silliness and day-to-day shenanigans which can often dictate. Carve out the time to do things which count, which serve your customers best and which generate positivity.
- Learn new skills. Don’t know much about digital communications? Well learn. Embrace social media, get your head around web sites, experiment with infographics as communications tools. Don’t just continue doing what you’ve always done. That’s a one-way street with a great big brick wall at the end of it.
- Visit other nests. If your organisation isn’t great at key things then get out there and observe, or better still visit, someone who does do it well. And bring that learning into your own role and organisation for multiple benefits.
- Develop a portfolio career. Do you have skills you could teach? Can you do extra freelance work? How about volunteering for a cause close to your heart? Expand and manage your future offer.
- Be seen. Get yourself out there, for example on the speaker circuit. Share your best practice, your best work, the stuff which sets you apart. Comms folk are often strangely poor at promoting themselves. Nobody likes a braggart but extreme modesty isn’t helpful either. And think long and hard about the way in which you are presenting yourself on platforms like Twitter and Linkedin and the way in which a potential new employer will view you through these channels.
Now really is the time for us all to go out there and deliver the absolute best work that we can, embrace the changes, consider every opportunity and in your day job make sure that even if you do go, you go out with a bang.
As a result, your digital CV – we all now have one – will set you apart.
Many of us will have to leave to look for new nests in the future – don’t just hang around waiting for that windy day to bounce you out of yours. Take control, anticipate change and shape a nest-building plan which is right for you.