When Avaya IT professionals talk about communication, technology is probably the first thing that comes to mind. It might be unified communications (UC), contact center (CC), or collaboration solutions that provide a focus for discussions.
But there’s another aspect to workplace communication that can be even more important for IT leaders and managers. Soft skills, such as the ability to make effective presentations, generate fresh ideas, motivate your team, and keep everyone on track are vital for achieving your goals and advancing your career.
Whether working in person, remotely or in a hybrid combination, IT professionals need to develop a strong set of workplace communication skills. That’s why IAUG offers professional development sessions online and at Avaya ENGAGE.
“When things are running smoothly and communications are going well, your team is engaged, productive, and innovative,” said Grace Lau, head of SMB content, RingCentral, in a recent post.
Here are several ways to improve communications in your workplace.
• Assess your current communication skills. Everyone has certain preferences when it comes to communication. You might prefer talking to listening, or vice versa. You might be more comfortable in a one-on-one setting than talking to a large group. As an IT leader, you should assess your personal communication skills to see where there are opportunities for improvement.
• Present your ideas effectively. Are you comfortable presenting a proposal to a business unit or senior leadership? If the answer is no, then put yourself in the mindset of your audience. What’s important to them are the business results, which may be very different than your technology priorities. Regardless of the situation, practicing your “pitch” with a team member is a good way to overcome nervousness and improve the presentation.
• Be clear when conveying information. Your team members need to understand what they should be doing, why a task is important and when the work needs to be done. In some cases, you may also need to spell out how to do something. Keep your messages simple and clear whether speaking to a group, talking to an individual or sending emails or texts.
• Avoid assumptions. Never assume that every member of your team member understands the task, goal or timeline. It’s a good idea to follow up after a meeting or conversation with a quick note: “Do you have any questions about what we just discussed?”
• Listen to your team. Remember that communication is a two-way street, and some of the best ideas and solutions will come from team members who are on the front lines every day. So, be sure to develop your listening skills. At a meeting, for instance, you could ask for feedback or suggestions, rather than simply telling everyone what to do. Don’t be afraid of pauses in the conversation, as some people take a little longer than others to formulate their thoughts.
• Watch your body language. Whether in person or on the screen, your team members will look at your facial expressions and posture. Are you relaxed, and looking directly at them? Or are you glancing away from them, trying to multitask at the same time, or presenting a stressed-out appearance? Take a deep breath, stay focused and give your team the attention they deserve.
• Show empathy. One of the best ways to improve two-way workplace communications is to show empathy with team members and validate their feelings. If someone is facing a personal issue, ask about that situation before diving into the task at hand. If a team member is struggling to meet a deadline, listen carefully, provide support and then look for a possible solution.
• Inspire and motivate your team. As a leader, be sure your team members understand why their actions are important to the “big picture.” Explain why a new technology solution will allow the organization to better serve customers, patients, students, employees or an entire community. Remember that IT does not live in a silo – your team’s actions can make a big difference in the lives of others.
• Celebrate achievements. When an individual or team achieves a goal, be sure to communicate that success to others. It might be an informal celebration in your department or an email to senior leadership outlining the accomplishment, for instance. Be sure to reinforce those positive outcomes whenever you can.
Reflecting on the importance of these types of skills, Lau said, “By employing communications strategies that foster open communication and collaboration, you can build a company full of employees who are engaged, efficient, and innovative. And that’s the kind of team that makes a company successful.”