Internal communications, by my 11-year-old self.

My speech notes, age 11.

Sorting through old uni and school things recently, I came across my scribbled-on school captain nomination speeches from primary and high school.

Yes, I know — why do I still have these things?

So of course I read through them to recall how I tried to convince my cohort and my teachers to vote for me.

And I was surprised to find a common theme across them both — though one was written as an 11-year-old and the other at 16, the main point I was selling was the importance of communication.

I couldn’t help but chuckle — I guess I picked the right profession.

“I think that a school captain should be… easy to talk to and a good communicator.”

Ashleigh, age 11. And my high-school self:

“I truly believe there needs to be an increase in communication between the students and those in charge, and I think student leaders can become this vital channel for communication… my main goal would be to support this ‘channel for communication’ and always be an approachable person to students and staff alike.”

My perspective on communication — though now slightly more mature — remains the same as it was back then.

My 11-year-old self saw the value of open channels and two-way communication in an organisation — at the time, this was between students and teachers in a primary school.

The focus was also on the importance of all voices being heard by those making decisions.

This is something that rings true across organisations big, small, private and public; you will have far fewer disgruntled, disengaged people if you simply let them know what’s going on, and how they can contribute.

In my professional life I’ve learned a great tip for both internal and external communication and engagement: you must communicate to people from the outset what’s negotiable, and what’s not.

When people know the scope, how they can influence an outcome, what’s up for debate, what’s off the table and how they can contribute, they’re much more likely to do just that: constructively contribute.

This applies to organisations of any size, around decisions of any scope. People just want to know how things will impact their lives.

I’ve seen great internal communication, and I’ve seen it done poorly.

And the common theme when it’s done well?

Even if individuals don’t get exactly what they wanted, they are more satisfied knowing they were consulted, and that their voice was heard in the process.