GUEST AUTHOR BLOG: Face-to-Face Conversation: Still Critical in the Digital Age by Jodi Glickman, author of "Great on the Job: What to Say, How to Say It. The Secrets of Getting Ahead."
Today’s world is more wired than ever, with over 5 billion text messages sent daily in the US and 100 million tweets per day worldwide. But while our digital dialogue continues to climb at an astonishing rate, our personal communication skills are hitting an all-time low.
We’ve become so adept at technology that real time conversation has taken a back seat, with devastating consequences.
While conventional wisdom says that you’re either born with communication skills or you’re not, I’m here to tell you that is not the case. Communication skills can be taught, and they are, in fact, crucial to business success.
Million dollar deals aren’t made over email; promotions aren’t handed out because of a brilliant tweet; and relationships aren’t solidified over text message. Business is – and always will be – a personal thing. Technology can’t be used as a proxy to show how smart you are, sell your ideas, or win the trust, respect and admiration of your colleagues and clients. You’ve got to actually talk to people live to do that.
When attempting to build relationships, move people to action, build consensus around ideas, or build their personal brands, young professionals and seasoned executives alike should consider these five tips:
- Lead with the punch line. Don’t take five minutes to communicate what should take only one minute. Tell your client, colleague, board or boss up front and center what is new, different or important. If you can’t answer what’s new, different or important, they probably don’t need to hear from you.
- Feedback doesn’t belong on the spot market. How many times have you gone into someone’s office and asked how the meeting went or how the memo looked? Did they tell you that you did a great job? Of course they did. No one gives constructive, effective feedback on the spot. You need to plant the seed in advance. Let your team know you’d like feedback before you want it. That allows time for them to sit on it, think about what you’ve done well or need to work on, and then compose their thoughts with a constructive, productive message.
- Use the smart ask to get help. Start with what you know, state your intended direction, and then ask for thoughts and feedback. Go to your manager or client with an opinion or idea on how to move forward, and then find out if she agrees. If you’re right, you look smart. If you’re wrong but you’ve shared your thought process, she’ll probably still think you’re smart. The only way she won’t know whether or not you’re smart is if you go and ask for outright guidance, without showing that you’ve put in the effort toward figuring out the answer on your own.
- Your pitch begins with your destination. What’s most relevant is where you’re going, not where you came from. What are you moving toward or excited about? After you’ve established the desired end result, then you can bring in your backstory – previous experience and relevant skills. Finally, connect the dots about why and how it all makes perfect sense to bring you on board as the agency of record or as the new financial analyst.
- When you don’t know the answer. The strategy here is to start with what you know, concede what you don’t know, and then promise to go figure the rest out. What people really want and need from you is the ability to go get the answer in the face of missing information. It’s okay not to know everything; it’s not okay to be lazy. Be proactive and take the necessary steps to find the information, answer the question or just keep the ball rolling.
Roberto Goizueta, former CEO of Coca-Cola , has been quoted as saying, “Communication is the only task you cannot delegate.” He is absolutely right. In today’s global economy, it’s not typically the smartest, hardest-working, or most technically savvy who succeed. The ability to communicate effectively and strategically is often the most important precursor to business success.
Jodi Glickman is the president and founder of "Great on the Job," where she teaches people how to communicate effectively in the workplace. She is the author of Great on the Job: What to Say, How to Say It. The Secrets of Getting Ahead. (St. Martin’s Griffin; May 2011). You can follow her at @greatonthejob.