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The pervasive use of technology during COVID-19 era is triggering a whole new genre of communications. As the world struggles to keep up with the unprecedented speed and scale of disruption, companies are facing the crisis of managing employees, businesses, and clients amidst the growing “discomfort”. This important challenge requires the engagement of stakeholders across the whole business value chain. During a time like this, an additional sense of urgency is driven by the need for employee activism as well as increased awareness and demands.
Communicating effectively is one of the most important skills in life. At the first level, it appears there is nothing new about it. Current times urge for a more effective but also a more “humanized” approach in delivering news, sharing instructions, aligning expectations, check-in and out with your team members and managers, and among others communication needs.
Managing communication fatigue
Instead of aiming to “manage” your conversation and drive the whole effort, you become willing to go with the flow using a flexible agenda, focusing on the bright side and great opportunities ahead to come once we better understand the constraints of a chaotic situation hence we can focus on applying the right methods and approaches to handle and manage it.
In order to communicate effectively, the goal is to discover how to use your whole mind, not just the rational and logical side that is driven by your left-brain but also moving to a more diffuse and emotional approach (right-brain). In fact, it is not an easy exercise.
Therefore, during moments of crises, dysfunctional behaviors tend to surface even more, but we are also seeing waves of compassion and empathy being communicated by effective leaders. The most compelling messages are the ones that explore vulnerabilities and fears of the communicator which makes the audience connect and listen with mind and heart.
Based on that, I would like to share some thoughts on communication that has been helping clients and ourselves to navigate and cope with current challenges. The list is not exhaustive, but it can help to think and refine the way you manage communications.
Keeping a positive attitude helps to set up the stage for the critical message that you want to share. In this current scenario, most of the people are reeling with anxiety and stress more than ever, hence infusing a positive note in your tone and ways of communication, will impact significantly the way people open up and understand the message.
You must keep the seriousness of the topic and at the same time exercise compassion when communicating critical and business as usual topics.
Communicate with enthusiasm and joy
Stay here and now! Most of us understand the basics of using and managing voice, tone, volume, body language and visual resources. Therefore, it is extremely important to be cognizant of how your audience is responding and reacting. Use the best of your emotional intelligence and focus on the moment. Although you have an agenda to cover, at the end of the day, it is all about your team needs and how fast we can organize ourselves to better support our people and serve our clients when things start to get back to a normal state. Use inspirational quotes, real-life examples and keep the environment warm and open.
Despite the topic, subject and current communication plan in place, always talk a bit about yourself.
I know some people do not feel comfortable about this approach hence whenever you find a good opportunity and you feel comfortable, try to share a bit about yourself, the way you see the world and your personal take on a given subject. Remember that it needs to be authentic and honest, otherwise, it can generate the opposite effect. This is how relationships are developed and nurtured.
Bring your best self forward
Having a sense of humor helps you cope with difficult situations and foster empathy. There is nothing better than a good laugh after a series of discussions about business and challenges. It works as stress relief and people feel light and joy.
According to psychologists, hope, gratitude, and sensor of humor belong to the set of strengths called transcendence. When combined, it helps us develop connections to the world and exercise a holistic view of our emotions.
Do not overwhelm people with information and instructions.
Today, with the exception of the essential services, most of the work is being performed remotely. Hence, there is a need for short and more frequent communications instead of long meetings and announcements.
Based on that, short and specific agendas need to be in place to address key messages and also to allow people to digest and reflect on the information. The suggestions are shorter meetings and more frequent following up sessions to keep people informed about the next steps and how as a group we may shift priorities according to what is learned on a day to day basis.
Stay open! Make yourself available for one a one conversation.
Talk to your peers, managers, family, and friends. Let people know that they can reach you out for a conversation. Making yourself available for one a one conversations demonstrates resiliency, empathy, and leadership. This way, we grow as a community and society. The sense of belonging and inclusion increases the feeling that we are all in this together and together, we can thrive over unprecedented situations.
Despite the fact that we are familiar with the most common communication techniques, there is a big difference between communicating effectively (skill related) and communicating profoundly with inner intelligence and qualities of mind. Paraphrasing the author Judy Apps who wrote the book “The Art of Communication: How to be Authentic, Lead Others, and Create Strong Connections”, the difference is an art, not science.
The author gives us a great analogy to think about. “If you listen to any great musical performance competition, every finalist is brilliantly accomplished technically but the judges invariably choose the winner that goes beyond the techniques which are their ability to communicate something special”.
Stay safe! Keep the communication channels open!