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If you thought your IC job was hard, spare a thought for Tony Kay. As a diplomat for the Foreign Office, he had to introduce new flexible working arrangements to staff across 21 countries in the Middle East and North Africa while under pressure of Government cuts. And then the Arab Spring happened right across his region…

Tony (pictured) will be a key speaker at IoIC Live 2016 in Birmingham on Friday May 6 and tells the March issue of InsideOut (the monthly free magazine for Institute members) how he communicated to staff across a massive region in the most difficult circumstances… Here’s a short version of the InsideOut feature.

Unless you’ve tried delivering a tough message to employees who regularly have to travel in armoured vehicles for their own safety, your job probably isn’t as challenging as Tony Kay’s.

He was the UK’s Consular Regional Director for the Middle East from 2009 until 2012. The Arab Spring came slap bang in the middle of his tenure, with democratic uprisings spreading across the region, originating in Tunisia in December 2010 and quickly taking hold in Egypt (twice!), Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain.

“I had to explain a different way of working to a very disparate number of people, including UK diplomats, junior and local staff.  How I communicated with local staff in Tehran was very different to how I communicated with ex-pat local staff in Dubai, for example.”

“It seemed like, as soon as I took on a new country, it dissolved into civil war,” recalls Tony, who was based in Muscat in Oman. His ‘patch’ was the whole of the Gulf, the Middle East, including Iraq, Iran and Syria, plus North Africa, including Egypt, through Algeria and Tunisia to Libya.

“A major task was to introduce a new concept - a cohesive network that was able to flex and surge and adapt to whatever was happening,” he explains.

“One of the main challenges was that I had a cadre of 100-odd staff who were very used to doing stuff their way, although maybe not as effectively or efficiently and they could have been.  Working in silos was a particular problem.

“I had to explain a different way of working to a very disparate number of people, including UK diplomats, junior and local staff.  How I communicated with local staff in Tehran was very different to how I communicated with ex-pat local staff in Dubai, for example.”

IoIC members can read more about how face-to-face comms was key for Tony – even across such a widespread region – and how he also had to convince senior ambassadors that his policy was correct in March’s InsideOut. Also in this edition: 

  • Laura Storey tells why IBM changed its IC policy
  • The State of the Sector 2016 report is analysed by Steve Doswell
  • Principled Persuasion author Mike Churchman outlines a stark choice for communicators
  • Paul Middlebrook of The Allotment explains how Perspex was used to engage employees across the globe
  • Lithuanian telecoms group Teo goes under the Spotlight.

To read or download the March edition of InsideOut, Institute members should log in at the top right of this screen. You’ll then find InsideOut in ‘IoIC Knows’– simply click on ‘Publications’ in the drop-down menu.

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