Technology and the pandemic have altered traditional management communication, resulting in businesses adopting a new normal — the blending of in-person, remote and hybrid work environments.
This new paradigm has created a need for reframing communication techniques, perspectives and sensitivities in the way executives and teams communicate within an organization. Even seasoned executives are being challenged by the potentially disruptive influence of new media and the disconnection that threatens traditional networking, bonding, team building and other executive communication skills.
Today’s executives have been thrown into a new environment, where their traditional communication skills don’t quite deliver the previous results. The landscape has changed, and new communication skills are needed to manage new media and new situational dynamics. The quickest way to gain those skills is through dedicated training programs that are customized for an organization’s culture and brand.
Here are 10 training concepts that should be part of any executive communication skills program, whether for a group or one-on-one:
1. Build and strengthen relationships with people. Even experienced managers face challenges regarding communicating and building relationships. Skills such as connecting, approving, criticizing and more will have to be relearned to generate anticipated outcomes within this diverse communications environment.
2. Keep participants engaged during communication sessions. Is the meeting forgotten soon after the video call ends? Keep things moving by tracking performance, updating timelines, working together as teams, brainstorming and more.
3. Stimulate participation in meetings. Make people feel comfortable about being part of the conversation. Going around a Zoom screen for feedback is different from going around a table live in a conference room. New skills are needed to help leaders obtain higher levels of participation and more valuable feedback.
4. Encourage collaboration and team building. Make people feel good about contributing to and being part of a solution. Just because people are talking doesn’t mean that they are meaningfully engaged. Managers should create and build a virtual emotional bond that contributes to their group’s cohesion.
5. Enhance emotional intelligence. Always be nurturing and sensitive to the feelings of others, so you don’t embarrass or offend them. Emotional intelligence training not only needs to convert to the virtual media, but it should also make managers aware of potential dog whistle transgressions and other cues that might be magnified by this environment.
6. Enhance your brand and strengthen your corporate culture virtually. The recent trend called “The Great Resignation” is proof that the emotional connection to brand and culture is broken. Training to understand how your organization’s brand and culture are defined and then how to not only communicate that, but also grow employees’ connectivity, are key to reducing and stopping this destructive trend.
7. Maintain control of the agenda in meetings. Tactically, leaders need to understand how the paradigm shifts from when they sit or stand at the front or head of a meeting, compared to being an equal box on the Zoom screen, and how to manage the difference.
8. Gain a consensus in this environment. Does the “loudmouth” of the group more easily derail a consensus in the digital environment? Tactical skills are needed to minimize disruption and move the group forward.
9. Build and maintain your professional image while in the casual environment of your home. Few people were schooled or prepared for the pandemic’s effects on working from home. Using sound, lighting, dress and background is important in how you present the firm’s brand and image and level of professionalism in a consistent manner.
10. Manage assignments and post-meeting follow-ups. There are many new tools used to facilitate group communications, working together as a team, sharing work in progress and more. Training must look to future opportunities and prepare teams to not only use the tools, but to achieve a degree of comfort and familiarity with them.
Although there are many executive communication training programs available, decision-makers need to look for one that has been developed or updated in the last 18 months, considering the unique influence from the pandemic — which isn’t going away.
Communication has always been paramount for executives, but the ecosystem has changed, resulting in the need for new techniques and skills to maximize effectiveness.