Conference calls, employees working remotely, overflowing emails, etc., are all the new symptoms of a digital world. It takes an extra effort for leaders and executives to be heard. Technology, although an asset, is at times distancing us from our team.
Many executives are feeling these frustrations in this fast-paced world where we have less time. Not connecting with our co-workers leads to higher employee turnover, mixed messages, and employees distancing themselves from the organization. This leads to impacts on the other bottom line…customer service. How does an executive stay connected while being genuine and not overbearing?
This article is designed to provide executives and team leaders with tips on staying connected with their teams and having their message consistently heard. Being an effective leader requires being an effective communicator. Communication in today’s world is different because media and technology are different as is the generational talent pool. Having worked with multiple executives and division leaders, we have identified some key effective means to being heard. These include:
- Keep emails crisp and informative/actionable – 72% of company emails are read on a mobile device. People tune out if an email is too long. If it goes beyond two paragraphs or more than one screen on a mobile device, readers begin to lose interest or skim and the message or intent is lost. If you’re email goes beyond two paragraphs or multiple screens it needs to be said in a different way. Either in person, an attachment, or over the phone. Refrain from using slang as if you are casually talking to friends because intent and emotion can be misinterpreted. Always, try to refrain from sending emails during periods of high stress or emotion.
- Maintain a clear tone on conference calls – Make sure your voice and tone match your message on a conference call. Avoid the distracting noises present during calls made from a car, from home with your barking dog, or from a room that sounds like an echo chamber. In large group conference calls such as those with investors, use technology which will allow you to mute the listeners while conducting your call or presentation.
- Connect with your audience – It is important to connect with your audience in presentations. Even in video conferences or conference calls, you can connect better with your audience if you address them by name and confirm that they are hearing your message. In a presentation setting it is important to make eye contact and confirm agreement through non-verbal acknowledgement. This is often observed with political figures: there are those who merely scan the room and there are those who methodically make eye contact with people and camera to ensure connection. Those speakers who make a connection are more effective and believable.
- Don’t wing it, practice – In conference calls, presentations, etc. don’t just wing it because you know your content. Practice your presentation, answer expected questions, practice your body language and stance so they match your message. Many leaders often forget to practice and use the excuse that they don’t have the time or they know their content. It should be your goal to practice, but not look scripted. You want to be genuine, but not overly relaxed. A leader who is prepared and genuine, and whose appearance matches their voice and tone, is much more effective in creating an aura of trust.
- Be prompt in your response and actions but not abrupt and reactive – When answering questions in an open forum or answering an email or question on a conference call, it is important to be prompt but not too quick. When a person takes a quick pause, it demonstrates to the listener they are providing a thoughtful answer. People who answer too quickly often appear indecisive, judgmental or nervous. Thoughtful and appropriately paused answers appear “calm, cool and collected” and, more importantly, in control.
- Connect on the listener’s schedule – In a large organization with a mobile workforce, it is difficult to connect with everyone. Therefore, executives are leveraging technology by recording video messages, which commuting employees and global employees can access on their own time which is convenient to them. If you embark on recorded videos and messages, make sure they are not too long (no more than 10 minutes) and that your voice, appearance and tone match the message. Don’t be afraid of makeup if you are going to be filmed either. There is a reason the professionals use it.
- Leverage your seated posture – Much of the time we are seated when connecting through technology. Whether in a car or train, at a conference table or home desk, you can effectively use your posture to generate your best thinking and a resonant vocal tone. Place your feet flat on the floor. Keep your spine upright and balanced. Be sure your chin is parallel with the floor. Good posture = Better firing neurons. Finally, use relaxing belly breaths and verbal “punctuation,” pausing where there would be a period or comma and avoiding “run-on sentences”.
Connecting with your audience, employees, co-workers and customers requires practice and the skills necessary will evolve overtime as the methods and modes of media/technology change. The demographic of your listeners changes and so must you adapt as well.
To be effective leaders and executives, we need strong communication skills – like never before – given our current business climate. As every minute of our day is continuously consumed, we often neglect our personal development. We neglect the self-monitoring questions: How am I perceived and more importantly am I being heard?
SAGIN provides executive and management communications coaching and development which is tailored to the individual to build on your strengths and develop skills to make you an effective communicator.
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