Skills for future success in business
Marcia Reynolds :
Technology has changed how we communicate and will continue modifying what we call effective communication. Many of our connections will be virtual; the use of video platforms will increase. What we call live interaction may be people in the same room, or using the same airwaves but sitting oceans apart. These seven skills are critical for your future success whether you are virtually or physically connected.
These aren't new skills, but are growing in importance as technology both interrupts and helps us connect:
Speak Short and Sweet - No matter where I teach around the world, when I ask participants what emotions most people feel in the workplace, the answers are always stressed, overwhelmed, and frustrated (and sometimes angry). People feel they have less time than ever before. They multitask and split their attention. When you talk to people, you are competing with both their mental and physical distractions. You need to be brief and clearly state what you want them to hear. If you have a request, ask without excuses. You might state why you think your request or the information you want to share is important but don't go into long explanations. Summarize your reasons. Like social media, limit the words you use. People stop listening after 6 to 10 seconds. Be brief and clear if you want to be heard.
Practice Instant Presence - Your ability to quickly disconnect and be present to people is a competitive advantage. Most people multitask. They believe they can split their attention and pick up enough to get what they need. This is a myth. You only have 100% of attention to use. If you give even 75% of your attention to someone, you still lose 25% of content. Also, people know when you aren't fully listening. They think you care when you listen, and don't care when you don't. If you are listening to a webinar or attending a group meeting, if it is important enough for you to be there, turn off everything and tune in. Then you can give your other work 100% attention when you get back to it.
Preset Your Emotions - Because we spend less time in face-to-face live interactions, trust is harder to earn. Because emotions are contagious, what you feel will impact the results of a conversation even more than the words you choose. You need to use your emotions to create the psychological safety necessary for productive conversations. When I teach coaching skills, I ask my students to shift to feeling "curious and care" before they engage in a conversation. The more compassionately curious you are when you converse with others, the more their brains tell them it is safe to open up to you. Calm down and remember what you like about the person or the results you are trying to achieve. This will help you listen for how their thoughts can connect with yours to find a way forward together.
Stay Emotionally Agile - Not only do you want to emotionally prepare for conversations, but you also need to be aware of the moment you lose your intentions during your interaction. What do impatience, frustration, and fear feel like in your body? Catch your emotions, breathe out, and choose to feel calm and curious again. If you can't, state what making it difficult for you to stay present. Maybe you can alter the direction of the conversation in a way that meets both your needs.
Limit Information Sources - Are you cramming information so you appear informed when you talk to people? There's so much content coming out that the more you cram, the less you remember. It's better to pick a few sources to learn from. Disconnect from the rest. You might swap your sources periodically to gain different perspectives, but don't let your list get longer. If you miss something, thank the person who shares new information with you instead of feeling embarrassed. Seek Virtual Collaboration - Even sought after thought leaders gain from collaborating with others instead of only pumping out content on their own. You will accomplish more when you learn how to work well with others to complete projects, design products, deliver services, brainstorm plans, and engage in meaningful conversations. Like all marriages, partnering is difficult, but great matches are rewarding. Look for matches with others in:
How you work - how do you match up in the speed of getting things done, toleration levels for less than perfection, love of change, and willingness to freely share ideas?
Your vision of outcomes - what does success look like for each project, why is success important, and what would indicate it is time to move on from a failing project?
Block Time Drains - Just when you think you have your inbox cleared out, someone will ask for something you didn't plan on. Learn how to manage your time and resources, including knowing when to say no. At the start of each day, determine what you must complete. Stick to your commitments. Inform others of what you can and cannot do. At the end of the day, celebrate what you completed. Determine how to finish what you couldn't. Then take time off before you go to bed so you sleep well enough to feel refreshed in the morning.
Set your goals today to improve these skills. They will grow in importance in the future.
(Marcia Reynolds, PsyD., is the author of two leadership books, The Discomfort Zone and Wander Woman. She is the President of Covisioning, a leadership development firm).