The “Meet our Coaches” series profiles Kademy’s network of communications leadership coaches, providing an insight into who they are, their professional experience and their perspective on the future of communications.

In this post, we talk to experienced strategic communication director, Helen Humphreys. With extensive leadership experience in culture and behaviour change, Helen is known for providing Board level advice, guidance and direction on transformation and complex issues in fast moving international environments.

How did you first get into Communication?

I moved to Hong Kong as part of the team setting up new Coutts offices in Asia Pacific. In my role I helped with everything from writing strategy documents to setting up the office. As the business grew, more and more of my role was sectioned off to new team members (Facilities, HR etc) but I decided I enjoyed the communication element and wanted to keep it. Fortunately, I was able to persuade them to take a risk on me and they were prepared to help me learn on the job. It was a very steep learning curve and I had to work very hard but I have never looked back!

What’s your proudest moment from being an in-house comms leader?

I’m very proud of what I have achieved – and even prouder of what people in my team have achieved. At Lloyds Banking Group I had to pull together a very large team for the first time and help everyone understand their role and how they contributed. This was at the same time as launching a new strategy, helping every part of the business go through change and working to improve the culture in banking. The whole team delivered a huge amount and made a difference which I look back on with pride.

…and just for balance, what was a moment you’d rather forget?

My worst moments have been when I was in a meeting and I had not prepared in enough depth so I got caught out! Now I know to admit when I don’t know and to go back with the answer. I also (now) make sure I fully understand the wider business implications and remember that not everyone ‘gets’ comms, so I need be better at explaining the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’.

What do you enjoy about being a coach for comms pros?

I love being able to share my experience and make use of all the lessons I learnt over the years. It is great to be able to help people overcome their issues and give them insights into ways of working, content or an approach that will help them.

What do you think will be the top challenges for comms leaders over the next few years?

Pace – I think a lot of the challenges that everyone talks about come down to the pace of activity, pace of change and speed of information flow. Whether that is caused by the growth of digital, the breadth of social media or the huge transformation and change going on in all businesses. It will be a challenge for all Comms Leaders to keep up – how do they have the most up to date information and how can they respond quickly enough? How can they avoid burnout and being overwhelmed?

And finally, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give now or wish someone had given you as a leader?

Remember that communication is a business discipline. It can be easy to get carried away with creativity or our own ‘language’ but to be credible – and most effective – we need to speak the business language, be part of the business leadership and align with, and shape, the business strategy and fundamentals.

Helen Humphreys is an experienced strategic communication director with expertise in culture and behaviour change. Having advised large, global organisations on employee communication and engagement, Helen provides support and advice to comms leaders to help them successfully navigate times of significant change.

Kademy members get access to our team of expert coaches, who all have extensive practical experience as senior-level communication professionals. Get in touch to find out more.