Communicating and engaging with our people is something that many of us do naturally, perhaps taking for granted the skills and experience that we draw upon to make those connections work well. What many of us miss is that effective communication is about so much more than simply sharing a desired message and also includes:
- Knowing your audience;
- Considering what they need from you in order to respond to your request or information;
- Checking for their understanding; and
- Seeking feedback on if your message was received and / or actioned successfully.
As the owner of or leader in the business, the responsibility for all of this sits with you - yikes!
Over the past four months, we have adapted our communication styles . We have learnt to engage over zoom, we have left our ugg boots on and dressed to impress only with our top half. We have thought hard about only very specific aspects our non-verbal communications:.
- How do I insert myself and ask a question?
- How can I tell if the person on the other end of this computer screen is actually looking at me or trying to stop their new puppy from eating their socks beneath the line of sight of the camera?
- If I turn my video off, will they notice…
We have focused on just one aspect of communication – ourselves and the messages we were sending. We have not had to consider how the other person would like to engage because we didn’t have any choice. Zoom was our only avenue. We zoomed and we did our best. Or, we didn’t zoom and we lost connection.
As our world of business now emerges from isolation, you have an opportunity to mindfully consider how to best engage, connect, and communicate. What does your audience need from you and how do you play to your strengths to truly connect with them in a way that will sustain you, your relationships and thus, your business? Here are a few tips to get you thinking.
1. Know yourself
Have you thrived in the online world and if so, do you know why or why not?
If you are someone who gains your energy from within you have likely cherished the time to nurture your thoughts, utilised your non-travel time to invest in being super prepared for all of your interactions and thus found this online world energising. You’ve possibly also quietly celebrated that you can hit that little red ‘leave meeting’ button when time is up and move onto your next task or activity for the day. Whoop Whoop!
Alternatively, if you are energised by the outer world of people you are most likely itching to book a face to face coffee (or better yet, long lunch) with any client, supplier or team member who dares to suggest they need to speak with you! You may have disciplined yourself to do some of those things on your to do list that you never got to previously and are feeling great about that however, you have probably had to seriously consider how to manage your energy throughout this isolated time and have found it a draining experience – it is not your preferred way of interacting.
None of us fit entirely in one of these camps or the other however being honest with yourself about where you gain your energy and how you truly feel about stepping back into face to face communication is a super important first step to help you plan for success.
2. Know your audience
Knowing me… Knowing you… (can we all please sing ABBA?!). If we run with the concept that effective communication is about so much more than simply your sending a message, we come to the realisation that you need to know your audience to effectively convey what you need to, in a manner that works for them.
You may be keen to meet face to face asap, however your client may actually prefer to continue with your online interactions. Flip that around and while you may be desperately wanting to stay online, your client may really need to reconnect with you in the same physical space to sustain your relationships and continue to choose you / your business as the best fit for them.
3. Adjust your style
It is your responsibility to own all aspects of effective communication for your business. Therefore, it is up to you to adjust your style to your client or supplier. Know yourself and your preferred methods of communication, overlay that with the preferred methods of your individual connections and adjust. This does not mean losing yourself or being inauthentic. The words, tone, and content of what you share will always have the greatest impact when you are authentically you.
However, consider how you deliver this – package up all you need to communicate and engage with the other person in a manner that makes it easiest for them to engage and digest and … win win, connection solidified and business relationship re-energised.
4. Create a plan
Armed with the all of the knowledge above – who you are and what you need, who they are and what they need and who you will need to adjust to – it is time to create your ‘coming out of isolation plan’. As you do this ask yourself these questions:
- Which clients do you prioritise for face to face and what impact will this have on your diary efficiency (given you’ll need to consider the ‘non-productive’ aspects of travel time, finding parking, remembering how to navigate their offices or premises)?
- For those you are continuing with online, what have you learnt through the world of Zoom and how will you get better at considering all aspects of communication so that you are considering your audience and what they need in this environment also?
- Whichever manner that you choose to engage, how to you connect with the other person and get their buy into this communication and engagement plan that you’ve tailored for them?
5. Manage your energy
Above all else, as you work through what you’ve learnt, what you need and how you will move your business back into the face-to-face world, do not lose sight of managing your own energy levels.
We often put ourselves last when it comes to managing our business and we will not bring our best to our clients, suppliers, and teams if our energy levels are depleted and we are no longer enjoying what we do. You became a small business owner to follow a passion, keeping that passion in sight and looking after yourself in your every day will bring you your greatest success.