Rudy Coenen joins the team of Katrien Decroos, An Dewaele and Ludovic Goethals with a communication expertise forged by 20 years of experience in leading companies in various sectors such as banking, insurance, asset management, the public sector, training, energy and associations.
With a career marked by diversity, Rudy has been able to embrace all the finer points of the professions linked to corporate communication. He has held several positions related to communication in a broad sense, up to the final responsibility of a communication department. He puts his know-how at the service of companies wishing to engage in a constructive dialogue with all their stakeholders.
At Square Circle, Rudy will use his talents to help companies facing changes and transformations to develop engaging and human communication with a particular focus on exchange, transparency and relational aspects. He will also actively participate in the communication training programme developed by Square Circle and by himself during his career.
Rudy Coenen: “What attracted me to Square Circle, apart from the solid expertise of the partners, was the integrated approach to Human Resources and Communication issues. Starting with a situation, a project or a need related to the human factor in the company, Square Circle will develop a complete solution that will encompass the typical HR or communication aspects in a totally integrated manner in line with the client’s needs. Such an approach is much more effective than the traditional approach where HR or communication experts or consultants go their separate ways”.
Square Circle, or the house of practical expertise in management, HR and communication, has been working closely with a business world in change for 20 years. From transformation projects, strong leadership and corporate culture, to crisis prevention and crisis management; they help realise the ambitions of tomorrow’s companies, each time using an integrated and practice-oriented approach.
Over the past 20 years, Square Circle has encountered the same needs at many companies: motivating employees to move ahead and convince them to tackle change in a constructive way.
“We often see that communication is only one aspect of the issue. People Management and HR are at least as important in the continuous changes a company faces,” Katrien Decroos points out. She herself has been advising organisations on managing their communication in business developments and transformation processes for more than 25 years, together with Ludo Goethals. Since the very beginning, both have formed the basis of Square Circle.
All too often, management has the idea that communication is simply words you utter top down. That a word creates a mental image is often forgotten. “We help management to speak a language with rational as well as emotional elements, because it is precisely the latter that gets people moving. Communication starts from people’s perception and should always be close to their own context,” says Ludo Goethals.
Square Circle consciously opts for a partnership and coaching approach and strives to provide real practical assistance and relieve the company where necessary.
At the same time, it takes time to get people and consequently whole companies moving. Often, management has been working on a specific change for a long time and employees cannot be expected to be as quick on the uptake. “Daring to show that taking time is really necessary is one of our challenges,” says Katrien Decroos.
A third partner joined in 2021. An Dewaele has been making a career in the HR sector for 30 years. “With An on board, we have an even broader base to help companies with an integrated expertise, where communication and HR come together,” indicates Ludo Goethals.
Companies knock on Square Circle’s door asking for guidance, not only in the event of major changes or when a crisis occurs, but also in positive trajectories.
An Dewaele: “The best way is to participate in a company’s project as a close partner. That way, we are not the consultants that bring the theory and then leave, instead by working hand in hand, the organisation learns and evolves and can then use the gained insights themselves going forward. In the future, we want to be able to remain a true sparring partner for the CEO or management of organisations more often. We already have this relationship with certain companies, but we are sure we can expand our role in this; we feel there is a need for it. More and more, we want to be the house where you can simply come in, where we listen to the issues, and then think and work flexibly with you on the basis of our expertise in HR and in communications. There is a noticeable evolution, a need and urge for a more integrated approach, and that is exactly what we can offer with Square Circle.”
Copyright text: HR Square
Victor has to announce some changes in his department. He has spent hours preparing 58 slides to explain the objectives, the new structure and the rationale for the change. In short, Victor is very satisfied with his presentation and so is his boss. On the announcement day, his employees listened to Victor. In a deafening silence.
Silence is the primary form of resistance
In the weeks that followed Victor continued to ‘defend’ his project. Always with the same words, the same ideas, the same concepts.
Six months later, the project is still not operational. Three employees have left. There are still gaps in the structure. Nothing is going well. The morale of the troops is close to zero. And Victor is seriously thinking of leaving the company too. ‘They don’t want to change’, he told his boss. ‘They don’t want to understand’. ‘They are resisting’.
Words and numbers
The presentation’s 3,400 words, 27 tables and graphs did not convince his employees. Worse still, they sowed doubt in the minds of the employees. Because the story Victor told was about him, the management and the company. Not them. They felt excluded from the project from the start.
On the very day of the presentation, the project took a nosedive. What followed was the chronicle of a predicted failure.
Victor did not know:
- That words create mental images, produced by our brain
- That only strong mental images, which resonate within us, make us ‘move’
- because they appeal to our reason but also to the emotion we feel
- That an emotion that is well experienced by employees opens the door to trust and commitment, a requirement for any change
- That the majority of ‘managerial’ words commonly used in communication during transformations do not succeed in convincing because of their lack of content and human feeling: in short, they do not create the mental images that will have an impact.
Convincing is about making words speak
Victor signed up for a ‘convincing through communication’ training course. He wants to learn how to use the words that will create the right mental images to engage employees in change. In other words, he wants to learn how to communicate for them and not for himself. He is ready to abandon his classic managerial lexicon which does not work, because it is meaningless for most people. Starting from what his employees feel, he will focus on the ‘real’ words, the mental images that speak and that will make his team evolve.
In short, Victor will learn to convince by communicating!
He has made it his mission to succeed in the next change mission. Because he has changed employer. And he has been given a major transformation project.
If you have to communicate in your professional life, wake up the Victor in you… you’ll be surprised by the result!
A crisis is always the ultimate test to expose the true soul of a company.
Salmonella contamination occurs frequently in Belgium but the majority never makes the news. Very occasionally a message appears in the newspaper to announce a recall. Not so with Ferrero.
The core of crisis communication: VALUES!
The key component of any crisis communication is to show the company’s attitude toward a society value that is compromised by the crisis. In this case, the health of consumers and more specifically of the children who were victims of the Salmonella contamination. In our crisis masterclass and media training, we teach our clients to focus their communications on these values from the very first minute.
Safety and health are general values that apply to all human activities. The protection of families as the cornerstone of society is also at the top as well as ethical conduct and the protection of the environment with attention to the climate. These values are universal, so to speak. Further values are the right of consumers to get adequate products and services and to be properly informed about them. The protection of the weak and the right to work are also part of the series. This is very topical, for example, within the immigration theme. Quality of life has risen sharply in recent years as a value, including the search for balance between private and professional life. Culture is also a value, and specifically local culture. Local norms and customs that determine how communities interact.
A few weeks after Ferrero, salmonella also struck chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut. The company reacted decisively, leaving no doubt about its approach to protecting consumers with a clear communication. A company can emerge positively from a crisis if it cares about these social values and acts accordingly. In the case of Ferrero, all we heard was the deafening noise of silence. The perfect storm that could have been avoided.
She is there, everywhere, at all times. She affects your private and professional life.
She is little known and little contested. Yet she consumes a lot of energy.
Her name? ENTROPY.
Entropy is a natural and irreversible phenomenon. The energy initially present in a system is transformed and ‘goes away’.
Entropy comes to us from physics but it is also perfectly visible in business.
To keep it simple: what is structured becomes de-structured, what is organized becomes disorganized, what is conceived becomes forgotten, continuously and naturally.
No one escapes this.
How do we fight against entropy? A few examples.
➡️ You want to encourage feedback in your team? Systematically put the topic on the agenda of your team meetings.
➡️ You want to reduce the number of accidents at work? After safety trainings, ask your employees to regularly review the situation on the floor in person with colleagues.
➡️ Are you starting a project? Consider “new blood” from the beginning if the project is going to be long and build up the “reserves” in the project team in time.
Fighting against entropy is within everyone’s reach.
1️⃣ Accept that it is universal and inescapable.
2️⃣ Make your colleagues aware of its existence.
3️⃣ You will be attentive to its effects on those around you and on yourself.
The Square Circle team guides people and organizations in growth, development and transformation. Supporting business dynamics is one of our great passions.
Antonissen Development Group is a dynamic real estate group that selects urban locations with exceptional potential and has a preference for transforming existing properties into high-quality, modern buildings that are accessible to all.
The company wants to support its growth by standing out in the market with a dynamic vision of its activity. But that is not all. Antonissen wants to involve all its employees in this exercise, namely the development of a motivating reason for existence (the ‘mission’), an inspiring vision and strong corporate values.
At first glance, involving all staff members in such a project seems utopian. Yet the company managed to achieve this with excellent results. After two days of working in small groups, all the objectives had been achieved.
What lessons can be learned from this process?
Does it make sense to involve the staff in creating a vision? Isn’t that the job of management?
Involvement of all staff members is an undeniable asset, as experience has shown time and again. In this case, we were able to get the entire team of 30 staff to work together in one workshop. For larger organisations, we recommend going beyond the strict framework of management by organising mixed working groups that reflect the different layers of the company. Here too, the results are surprisingly rich and insightful. In the end, of course, it is always management that validates the work done.
What do you have to do to get results?
Careful preparation and continuous coaching during the workshop are essential. Each group has a pilot who is well prepared to lead the entire exercise. Square Circle takes care of the focused approach and facilitation during the sessions.
What if staff proposals are not accepted? This can demotivate the staff!
Practice has shown that the results of the group work are highly relevant and rich in strategic insights and proposals. The management was always impressed and pleased with the quality of the work.
What happens when everything is validated? The expectations are high!
Now that Mission, Vision and Values are on paper, we want to take action to really bring them to life and integrate them into our daily operations. Here, the Results Roadmap™ was used to carry out concrete actions in a decentralised but synchronised way.
All this is framed by dynamic and mobilising communication. Since there was broad participation in the creation of the vision, we see great commitment in the teams afterwards to realise the vision.
My department is changing, can such an exercise be done to refocus all employees on our goals?
We strongly recommend this. The raison d’être of a service may remain unchanged, but the vision of its activity may evolve significantly. Knowing that a vision is a set of ambitious but concrete goals to be achieved in a certain period of time, building it together is the best way to motivate employees to achieve it.