Things are unpredictable right now, just as many planned to return to the workplace. Many workers wonder about the safety of resuming face-to-face interactions. You may believe that few things about your work world are within your control.
The truth is, we are more in control than we think.
If you haven’t already returned to the office, the time will come when the majority of U.S. workers will return to in-person or hybrid work and engage face-to-face interactions. When we do, will your communication skills be ready?
Remember when we started working virtually? In the beginning, every Zoom meeting came with a set of challenges. We witnessed barking dogs, messy houses, interruptive spouses and loud kids. People scrambled for the mute button or forgot how to operate their camera or properly moderate a chat room. We were all a hot mess. Nevertheless, we remained patient with each other through the initial growing pains.
Within a few short months, expectations shifted. It did not take long to realize remote work was the norm for professionals everywhere. We quickly recognized we had to up our game. Being able to influence others in a virtual environment was a challenge, especially with so many work-from-home distractions.
Many recognized that their reputation and credibility hinged on keeping their listeners’ attention. They became intentional with their professional presence, polishing their appearance and mastering their virtual workspace. Most learned to keep the cameras on and workplaces quiet. It quickly became frustrating to interact with those who failed to do the same.
When we do reach the point of returning to work and engaging face to face, will you be ready? Or will your in-person communication skills seem as chaotic and messy as those early virtual days?
Showing up consistently – Monday to Monday® – means every time you interact, you invest in your level of influence. When we communicate, it’s about understanding what the listener perceives and what is coming across on the other end.
Use the time you have now to focus on what you can control by sharpening the communication skills you haven’t practiced in more than a year. When you do return to in-person work, your communication skills will be polished and ready to influence others to act on what you have to say.
Here are three steps to invest in your influence NOW:
1. Record yourself.
Have you ever heard a recorded version of yourself and thought, “Is that what I really sound like?”
We’ve all been there. Hearing what our listeners hear can be a rude awakening, but it is the number one way to recognize areas of improvement. The next time you are on a Zoom meeting or phone call, hit the “record” button. Immediately watch or listen to the playback. Make notes of what needs improving. Perhaps you used filler words like “uh” and “um.” Maybe you spoke too quickly and didn’t provide enough pauses between thoughts to allow your listener to consider what you just said.
Influencing others to act on your suggestions means being intentional with how you verbally share your ideas. Similar to your virtual workplace, your conversation must be without distractions and free of background noise that can pull your listeners' attention away from what you have to say.
2. Plan your conversation.
Do you hop on virtual meetings and wing the conversation, or do you write down ideas you wish to discuss?
Keeping conversations on track and purposeful requires planning. It does not take more than a few moments to write down the thoughts you wish to convey. Put those thoughts on a sticky note and paste it next to your camera. Prepare for virtual interactions now so the habit is formed when you return to in-person work. Preparing your points will keep you focused and on track. It will not take long to earn a reputation for hosting efficient and productive meetings.
3. Practice your body language.
Influential leaders are consistent with their body language and words, but working from home has left many of us out of practice. We have focused so much on the camera’s viewpoint that we have ignored the message our body language conveys.
When you’re influential, your words and body language must match. When people witness your consistency, they see you as believable and relatable. When returning to the office, be prepared to set yourself apart in the very beginning. When you communicate, be willing to do something differently than the average communicator. You must move the needle.
The next time you hold a phone conversation, stand in front of the mirror. Focus on your body language and movement. Look at your posture, hand gestures and movement. After the call, make notes on what you wish to change so that your body language matches what you have to say.
The time to practice returning to in-person or hybrid work is now. Use this time wisely so you are prepared to show your listeners the consistency in your communication skills. Going back into the office means having the chance to establish your in-person influence, grow your reputation and build credibility. Implement these three tips regularly and be the leader you are meant to be.