It is that time of the year when convocation pictures start flooding social media especially of b-schools in India and it reminds me of my graduation from IIM Lucknow. It also brings with it a train of thoughts - all that I achieved during those two years and what more I could have achieved.
With many of you getting ready for the second year of b-school many others who have convocated, ready to take on the corporate world, I thought I would share something inspired from a real incident that happened some years back in my workplace that hopefully helps in a way.
'It seemed impossible for Payal to fulfil her duties as a newly appointed Assistant Logistics Manager. Matters had escalated to such a level that the warehouse team based in Dubai would not cooperate with her at all. If it were a personal conflict, things could have been ignored but day in and out it resulted in a delay in receiving the shipments in the stores. Payal had an excellent academic record and was recruited from one of the best colleges in India. She was extremely sincere and was doing all that she could- coordinating on the call, via emails making sure all paperwork for clearing the shipments was completed to the best of her knowledge but her counterpart on the other side, John, was an extremely rude and insincere person. He would not dispatch the shipments in time or give special attention to urgent cases. He would also not be clear as to the paperwork requirements which led to high demurrage charges. When confronted, he would either make excuses or blame Payal for all coordination issues. At other times, he would not answer the phone. Clearly, this had to sort.
Payal was the sweetheart of the brand team. Diligent and ever smiling young girl.
For sure something was amiss somewhere so the Brand Manager decided to send her on a business trip to the warehouse in Dubai along with the Logistics Manager.
John, a guy in his late 40s could not imagine that Payal, the logistics girl who was giving him a hard time was just in her early 20s. The moment he met her he exclaimed, "I cannot believe that you are Payal. Look at the smiling face!"
Basically, the issue was that Payal came across as a very rude person on the phone and in her emails. There was no salutation when matters were urgent and she never asked how John had been doing on the phone calls. She seemed less empathetic, compared to the previous person he used to engage with, always in a hurry and only wanted her work to be done. More so, she would frequently copy John’s manager in CC as soon as even the tiniest issue arose and that is what had made John resistant towards helping Payal execute her job smoothly. But Payal being a vibrant millennial, eager to exceed at her job never realized any of this.
A cup of coffee at Starbucks over a half an hour conversation is what it took to sort matters. John, today has developed an extremely strong work relationship with Payal which has helped not just her but also the brand.
That is all that was required. A face to face meeting and expectation setting.
I recall now, that the incident I just mentioned above is similar to a case study we went through during MBA first year but not many of us paid attention to it then.
The higher you go, the higher is the importance of communication skills but in college, it is the most underrated course. Most students devalue such courses on HR and business communication and use it only to complete their credits. I completely agree that it is a skill that has to be practised and experienced, but I also believe that the more importance these courses get while pursuing the degree amidst the finance and marketing courses, the more mindful one will remain while conducting himself/herself at the workplace.
I know of not even one graduate who has not faced a problem that could have been avoided with better communication skills. Of course, the students are not to be blamed entirely. The curriculum surrounding communication is generally more academic rather than practical. Though b-schools have case studies around it, in my opinion, a concerted effort needs to be made to make the classes more useful because communication is not just about the use of good language. Non-verbal communication, in fact, is even more important.
So here is my list of 5 effective yet simple communication techniques that will make your work life smoother.
1. Always greet the person before you speak and try to meet in person
Though one may think these are basic manners about which everyone knows, I find many people too engrossed in their work that they forget to use salutations in email or greet during a phone call. Also, whenever possible try to meet your stakeholder in person. It makes a lot of difference!
2. Give help to receive help
In order to carve a space for yourself where others are ready to help you when you need, you need to give it first. This subtle communication of gaining trust works!
3. Be mindful of the address list in CC
It is a big deal in most organizations who all you keep in CC in an email. While some people use it as a weapon, it must be used judiciously.
4. Let your work communicate too
If the team starts thinking that they don’t understand why you have been given the position you are in, sometimes communicating silently with your work can win big battles. Instead of arrogance or ignorance, build your credibility slowly that you are good at what you do.
Last but not the least…
5. Whom are you talking to?
A good time to revisit your books because it works in most cases if you can identify whether the listener is an intuitive, thinker, feeler or sensor before making your pitch. It requires great practice but a beginning has to be made.
Wishing you the very best in your careers!