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Priya Bates is an award-winning professional communicator with a passion for driving strong performance from the inside out. As President and owner of Inner Strength Communication, Priya builds strategic internal communication, engagement, branding and transformational change plans that enable, engage and empower employees to deliver business results. In her 20+ year career, Priya has led communication for organizations including the Loblaw Companies Limited, HP Canada, Compaq Canada, and The Ontario Nurses Association.  Her clients include organizations and leaders across technology, retail, financial, healthcare, mining and manufacturing sectors looking to build strategic internal communication expertise. 

Priya is an Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) and was proud to become one of the first Certified Strategic Communication Management Professionals (SCMP) in the world. In 2010, she received the Master Communicator (MC) designation, the highest honour bestowed upon a communication professional from IABC Canada. In 2016, she was recognized as an IABC Fellow, a global lifetime achievement award for her contribution to the profession.  Priya is also a passionate volunteer with the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), recently leading the organization’s global rebranding effort.

What do you want our readers to know about you?

I’m here to build inner strength, personally and professionally. Through Inner Strength Communication, I help organizations enable, engage and empower their employees to manage change and deliver results. I help develop programs and practices through a research-based approach to improve internal communication and employee engagement. I believe we can make a bigger difference starting from the inside out. I train leaders and communication professionals to ensure internal communication is an integral enabler of organizations success. 

Through A Leader Like Me, we build an empowering community for women of colour to provide skills development, a safe-space to share their lived experiences, and a support network as they navigate their careers. We’re building courage and confidence through information, insights and inspiration.

What would you like to see more of in the workplace?

Stop focusing on the campaign and start focusing on the conversation. It’s the everyday behaviours and actions of organizations that will improve culture, build trust, and deliver impact

What characteristics and/or qualities do you admire in the women you work with?

Courage. Confidence. Vulnerability. Work Ethic. Compassion

What advice did you wish you were given earlier in your career?

Stop caring what others think or do. Be comfortable in your own skin. Be comfortable with what you add to cultures versus worrying about fitting in.

How do you think COVID-19 will change the future of work for women?

Women still have more of the responsibility for the household. With work-from-home and school-at-home, you are juggling more at the same time than before. 

As a consultant, I have worked from home for several years. I have to constantly remind everyone that they need to pretend I’ve gone to work. I’ve actually built a new basement office with a closed door (waiting for finishing touches) so I can have privacy.

How do you think we can increase diversity in the workplace?

By being honest with ourselves that we default to our biases. I love alliteration. Here’s what I am looking for: 

ACKNOWLEDGE there is a problem (when you have all white leadership teams, all white executives or teams in communities where there is diversity that should be a flag that bias exists). Be AWARE of present state – Do the measurement and compare to the demographics and communicate discrepancy. Drive ACTION through a plan that includes timelines and numbers. Hold yourself ACCOUNTABLE to the results so you can understand what is happening. 

Once you create the boxes, check in with diverse workers on if they are set up for success. Adding one checkbox hire and not changing experiences will mean your organization will struggle with retention. The responsibility for pipeline and retention lies with the organization and its leaders… Not the diverse employees.

What is one example of a positive, memorable experience you’ve had in your career?

When I held tight to a program I’d developed on how to communicate reorganizations effectively which meant the President stepping in front of employees nationally to explain what was happening and why. 

We were letting 700 go across the country and it was going to hit the news media. The Chairman didn’t want him to do it and send an email announcement instead. I held my ground and probably would have been fired if it backfired. 

It didn’t. The Chairman told me later that day that I was right. 

It’s a methodology I use again and again with my clients. Even the bad news is an engagement opportunity. I want leaders to own their decisions and share big picture to drive awareness, understanding, response and belief.

What was one belief you had that you later realized was a myth?

That I needed to assimilate to feel I could belong. It was about losing myself, my history, my background, my culture, my experiences, my gender to feel like I was one of them. The truth is that everyone loses. You feel like you’re a fraud which chips away at confidence. They lose a different perspective that could make the whole stronger.

Why are you fabulous?

Because I always get results. I once answered this question with a hiring manager in 1998. I said you should hire me because everything I touch turns to gold… And with few exceptions, this has always been true.

Do you have a mantra or quote that inspires you?

“If you can see the path laid out in front of you, it’s not your path. Your path is the one you create with every step you take.” – Joseph Campbell

Where can people find you online?