How to Improve your Communication and Influencing Skills for the ‘New Normal’

How to Improve your Communication and Influencing Skills for the ‘New Normal’

How to Improve your Communication and Influencing Skills for the ‘New Normal’

Communication has always been the key to effective working relationships, collaborative teams, and overall business success.  Now, more than ever, when some tough decisions are being made as a result of the impact of Covid-19, it’s important for leaders and managers to use clear and honest communication about the future.  During the pandemic we’ve seen some examples of how Authentic Leadership has led to organizations reinforcing their brand values and in so doing greatly enhancing both their consumer loyalty and employee brand.  Of course, we’ve also witnessed the complete opposite.

The future of work  looks to become a hybrid-model of some office working but for the foreseeable future and for many employees, remote working  is set to become the ‘new normal’.  Therefore, leaders and managers are having to flex their styles even more and review their communication style for ongoing virtual meetings.  Managers are also having to assess the stress levels of their team members remotely, at the same time as reviewing their performance, which involves a delicate balance of empathy, check and challenge, as well as excellent communication skills.  The key is to be mindful of the fact that most team members are dealing with challenges during lockdown, from juggling work with home schooling, worrying about vulnerable relatives, to anxiety about their own job security.

Communicating, negotiating and influencing effectively with key stakeholders are among the top Competencies and development areas identified in 360 Feedback Reviews and addressed in Executive Coaching and Mentoring.  The most overlooked part of Communication is listening.  Good Communication skills are often thought to involve being articulate, telling a good story and having a wide vocabulary, but the ability and willingness to listen to others is more important and is even more crucial during remote working.  Unfortunately, some managers may have a tendency to interrupt their team members or reach conclusions about what they think their employee is trying to say, even before they have finished speaking.  This can be exacerbated by online meetings when they are trying to wind up lengthy conversations. 

Active Listening

Frequently because of biases and filters we don’t tend to hear what’s really being said.  Listening actively is a real skill which takes regular practice to develop and includes empathising with the person, nodding, and summarising what they are saying, as well as identifying and understanding the following: 

  • What the other person thinks and feels
  • What the other person needs and wants
  • What problems, real or potential, stand between the other person and the achievement of their goals today?  This is crucial for effective remote management.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal Communication can constitute up to 70% of what we are saying and can have 8 times more impact than words, for example, slamming your fist down on the desk.  Body language, posture, presence, gestures, facial expressions and eye contact are all important in making you come across well.  Again, these elements of effective Communication are even more important during a succession of Teams/Skype/Google Hangout meetings when attendees tend to start relaxing and giving away how they really feel as they forget about the camera, suffer from screen fatigue, start playing with their hair, or even putting their head in their hands!  It’s important for leaders and managers to be able to spot signs and signals of any issues by holding regular 1:1s via video calls.

Verbal Communication

Over the past few weeks, I have been interviewing a number of candidates during Career and Transition and Outplacement Coaching.  It’s important to remember it only takes up to 7 seconds to form an impression when using the phone, even less on a video call, so how can you improve the use of your voice to maximise the effectiveness of what you are trying to say in an online meeting or even an online interview?  It is useful to practice identifying your natural style and understanding the pitch, pace, inflection, intonation, tone, volume and energy used, as they can sometimes all portray sarcasm and a belittling attitude.  Aim to articulate more, speak slightly slower than you would normally and be clear and concise to create a vocal impact.  When speaking to team members remember ‘It’s not WHAT you say but HOW you say it’ as individuals may not be able to recall your actual words, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

Open Questioning

In order to find out how your team members are faring during lockdown  ask them How? and What? questions to find out more detail regarding emotions and feelings, such as: ‘What is preventing you from achieving your main objectives?’  ‘How can I help or support you more?  Be wary of using ‘Why’  too often as it can be viewed as judgemental and intrusive.  In order to influence more effectively, be clear of your objectives and act with respect and integrity.  Be assertive, direct and honest, be aware of options and use Open Questions (which don’t allow a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response) to identify stakeholders’ needs and effectively manage conflict. In order to negotiate more effectively with key stakeholders, ask Who? When? and Where? questions to elicit facts, such as: ‘Who is the Decision Maker?’  ‘When are you aiming to finish the project?’ ‘Where is the new Sales Director going to be based?’

Now, more than ever, it’s important for Communication to be clear and honest, no matter what the situation.

Stay Safe!

About Jill Maidment

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