Business In The Workplace

Sunday 20 October 2019

Communicating with impact means talking a good game

The Communicator

'We were discussing the reality that so many tasks people currently perform as part of their job or career will very soon be handled by machines' Stock photo
'We were discussing the reality that so many tasks people currently perform as part of their job or career will very soon be handled by machines' Stock photo

Gina London

I just got off the phone with an executive who oversees his organisation's learning and development (L&D) programmes for all its global employees. Without revealing what company, I can tell you that we're talking about 55,000 people. That's a lot of L&D.

And speaking of talking, that's precisely what we were talking about: 'Talking'.

We were discussing the reality that so many tasks people currently perform as part of their job or career will very soon be handled by machines. Whether it's through artificial intelligence, machine learning or robotics, technology already has and will continue to become a replacement for us.

For instance, when was the last time you bought a train ticket from an actual human being behind a counter? (I'm typing this week's column on the train from Dublin to Cork. I booked online and retrieved my ticket from one of the many automated booths.) Did a person check you and your bags in at the airport recently, or did you use one of the self check-in kiosks? Or, if you're not as much of a travel bug as I am, how many more self-service, mini-checkout counters have you seen pop up at your local grocer?

The McKinsey Global Institute predicts 800 million workers will lose their jobs to technology by 2030. Just over 10 years from now.

That's why we were on the phone exploring what we are convinced are the critical skills we humans need to acquire if we are to compete and contribute in this brave new world. The top abilities my colleague described revolve around talking - or more precisely, purposeful communications.

Here are four of the essential talents he listed and how I describe each one.

1 Organisation

You might initially think that technology will handle all the organisation needs within an, er, organisation. In some ways, of course, you are right. Billing systems and customer tracking software and employee engagement platforms are already commonplace. But this makes the need for people to become more adept organisers themselves even stronger. To stay relevant we must develop the focus required to commit to personal and professional development or new skills training. We must discipline ourselves to manage time efficiently, to prioritise the tasks and projects that we still do have and to work in an organised manner.

2 Collaboration

Our skills in personal organisation will have direct application when we're called upon to help organise others. It has become more complicated these days and in that not-so-distant-future to work in teams. Namely because many team members are joining in on projects remotely. We're becoming less and less blessed with in-person collaborations and more dependent on individuals contributing collectively and separately from various places and time zones around the world.

There are myriad communications skills required. Imagine you're collaborating through a regular audio conference. How do you get collective buy-in or ensure everyone is feeling comfortable with a project's direction if you haven't asked open-ended questions to encourage input? How finely tuned is your listening to pick up the tone of a team member who feels slighted or frustrated? Your skills need to be razor sharp.

3 Negotiation

Countless books, classes and courses outline and structure the communications strategies to become an effective communicator. How many have you read? How much of the written information have you directly applied? For instance, how well do you understand how to establish rapport and identify common goals? Have you set aside time to try and imagine the issue from the other side's perspective? Have you determined small concessions that you may offer to achieve the greater final result? Negotiation abilities, like any skill, must be nurtured, practiced, refined and reworked.

4 Persuasion

Hand-in-hand with negotiation but also a stand-alone skill is persuasion.

Do you have what it takes to effectively help others imagine where your idea or solutions can take them? Do you know how to craft a high-level message that motivates people to action? Do you understand how to consult and summarise before concluding? Do you get conceptual agreement before you submit a proposal? You may think you're already a natural-born persuader, but if you don't have an audience-focused, well-constructed communication plan, you risk your audience checking out or worse, walking out.

Over the past three weeks, I've tried to build your awareness around my three essential building blocks of purposeful communications. Appearance, Behaviour and Communications. Your 'ABCs' are each interconnected with and supportive of the others. As Stanford's graduate business school underscores when describing its executive education course, Communicating with Impact, "Communication may be the most critical component of effective leadership. To achieve shared goals, a leader must be able to craft a compelling message, articulate an exciting vision, or galvanise a group around a course of action."

The techniques, psychology and strategies of communicating with impact is a professional development area that can you begin to undertake to prevent yourself from becoming one of those soon-to-be 800 million unemployed.

Success is a result of long-term planning and daily action.

What will your action be today?

Sunday Indo Business

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