Member Article

Communication is Key To Moving Forward

Andrew Marsh, chair of Vistage for the North East and Northumberland, NED for numerous businesses and charities; and successful entrepreneur, has committed to imparting his knowledge throughout 2021 to help business leaders come out of the last year with a solid view for the future.

Here, in his latest article, he talks about communication and how important it is to focus on the right interaction and the right messages for future success.

“Communication – a word that is used easily to convey a very simple act between humans. And a word for which the meaning in the last year has changed significantly.

“Until March 2020 we all felt face-to-face meetings and colleague interaction was the best way to do business. Virtual contact was shied away from a lot of the time, viewed mainly as a trendy, geeky thing to do. However, the overnight shift to virtual quickly replaced the thought out, slow, careful approaches we used to apply.

“Many held back and applied only non-verbal communication for the first few months, until they got savvy with virtual communication and truly had no option but to jump on the virtual band wagon.

“But, we all know it is significantly harder to get your message across in written form; emails and text sent in haste are often misunderstood or taken with the wrong tone, for example. Words can appear passive aggressive or dismissive. The wait time between a response can lead to more questions than answers. Tech impurities even interfere on virtual meeting platforms, thanks to wifi weakness, noise and feedback!

“In person, leaders can deliver instruction or action points with a smile, body language or eye contact, softening what could be a hard to swallow message. Going forward it is important to remember to transmit these personable skills into our communication activity again, building confidence.

“Zoom, Google meet and Teams becoming ‘the norm’ has changed the way we communicate. They create a less formal approach which many of us have seen gives room for more heated discussions or for an individual to be borderline rude. Interrupting someone is much harder in person than online and on a virtual call it’s easy to be distracted or not listening, especially if the camera is off. We also have all tended to book in back to back meetings without breaks, meaning we miss the water cooler moments. Juggling family, kids, pets and sharing space also posed massive challenges.

“As the world opens back up, we need to leave lazy or unproductive bad habits behind us. For those who could keep working with adaptation, not a lot changed as decisions were made and actions taken as always, but what about those who were closed or furloughed? They will now have the challenge of fitting into a world that has moved on somewhat.

“Yes, there will always be a place for virtual meetings as they definitely save on travel / time plus many will continue to work from home; but as we now meet back in the office it’s important we remember how to communicate properly, bringing back healthy communication skills.

“Erica Dhawan sums the predicament up well in her thoughts about having to re-imagine collaboration. Her focus on connectional intelligence is quite insightful and I agree with her that one of the best skills that leaders can learn in 2021, is how to leverage conversation intelligently to get things done in the new norm.

“She warns that part of the learning curve will be how to listen properly again. On the phone or on a virtual meeting, you have your own brain space so it’s easy to let thoughts wander. Transfer that back to the boardroom, for example, and you are looking unprofessional. Focus needs to be sharpened.

“With connectional intelligence skills, you will build a sense of purpose for the long term benefit. This involves asking questions as well as answering them, engaging as many people as possible, keeping a clear focus on who can help with what effectively. Peers groups like mine are ideal for this.

“You will also have to continuously communicate well with employees as they return to the workplace to get the best performance all round. Bring in new communication tools, such as staff newsletters or interim team meetings, to make sure everyone engages properly. Judging what needs to be face to face and what could be virtual will be key going forward. Organisations will benefit from a member of staff dedicated to just listening, ensuring those struggling or with residual worries have somewhere reassuring to turn.

“Communication should focus on rebuilding face-to-face productivity; and also protect your reputation as a leader and employer. Therefore, all communication should be clear and inspiring.

“Acknowledge the past year and then focus on the future. Build excitement, positivity, build trust and openness. Be sensitive to needs of your team and peers. Kindness is a word being thrown around a lot, instead of talking about it, demonstrate it! Lead from the top down and the respect/kindness will be returned throughout the entire team, back up.

“As an employer, you should engage with your team regularly now. Be transparent with your own fears and vision, and ask them to do the same. Do the same with stakeholders, and of course, you must review your policies to make sure they are all up to date for this brave new world.

“As a region, we need to pull together all our leader’s to ensure we address emotion, acknowledge loss and move on with excellent communication that enables us to build a resilience for the future together!”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Anna Toms .

Enjoy the read? Get Bdaily delivered.

Sign up to receive our popular North East morning email for free.

* Occasional offers & updates from selected Bdaily partners

Our Partners

Top Ten Most Read