Despite the rise of new technology, these three practices to communicate, engage and influence people will always be timeless.
How many parents have a toddler who can work an iPhone or iPad better than they can? What about the parents of teenage kids or young adults who cannot communicate except through texting, email or social media? With technology constantly evolving, technical skills and know-how will be the most common skills among the working and business public—but the ability to communicate face to face will always be one of the most important aspects of business.
While younger generations preparing to enter the workforce should keep up with technology to remain relevant in today’s economy, they should also continue to practice and focus on perfecting their soft skills: communication, interpersonal interaction, influence and personal effectiveness in a social and business setting. These abilities are the great differentiator in business of the future.
In order to develop these relevant skills and to create the best team today and in the future, there are three things a leader can do. First: learn how to be a coach to your players; this, most likely, is not what your manager did for you. Second: identify what you want to coach. Third: commit and implement a true practice program that requires the leader to participate.
Learn to coach
The word “coaching” is used in business today as much as the word “culture”, but in the same way that “culture” is used in most organizations, it is merely a word with very little impact or “law.” Leaders tell their managers to coach, but they never teach them how to coach. Many managers may say, “Hire good people and then just let them do their jobs.” This strategy will suffice if a leader is content with never making their employees better.
In professional sports, a coach drafts the best player they can find, and they commit everyday of their professional lives to making them better. In business, it is the leader’s job to hire great people and make them better. The key to start coaching is to change the mindset from managing to coaching. To accomplish this, the leader’s actions must change from a reactive approach of getting involved when needed to a proactive approach of getting involved before they are needed in order to prepare the employee to win.
What to coach
A very important factor in coaching is understanding what to coach. Leaders need to stop focusing on just product and industry knowledge and begin to focus on perfecting the soft skills like communication, personal interaction, body language, voice inflection and the transfer of positive energy. Envision what you consider great customer service and bad customer service, or what separates a top performer and a bottom performer. The most adept leaders have harnessed face-to-face communication. In baseball’s World Series, the greatest players are still practicing the fundamentals, such as throwing and catching the ball. In business we must do the same, and we must practice repeatedly throughout the duration of a career. This includes the big and small parts (which really equal the big parts).
Implement a practice program
When one thinks of a practice program, they may instantly feel overwhelmed and attempt to outsource it. This is a big mistake, as leaders of an organization need to be a part of their practice program—and it is not nearly as overwhelming as one might think once it is kicked off. Team engagement, immediate success and results will snowball this into full blown commitment on everyone’s part, making it even easier and more effective. The hardest part? Getting it started and staying committed.
A first and simple step is to implement weekly practice sessions that the leader mandates and runs. Just like a parent who wants to coach little league sports, the key is making the team practice during the week so they win on the weekends. In fact, similar to little league sports, the more serious the competition and priorities placed on winning, the more practices take place. In business, everything is serious and competitive when it comes to success and winning, because winning matters. Learning to practice is almost as hard as learning any new skill. It will feel awkward, redundant, uncomfortable and hard at times, but just like parents tell their kids, “If you want to be the best and win, then you have to practice.”
While social media and a litany of gadgetry have streamlined our ability to connect and interact, there will never be a substitute for stout communication skills. Focusing on these time-honored skills and building better teams in business follow the same principals of raising better kids—yet it can prove more difficult because of the lack of the familial connection that makes us willing dedicate our time and sacrifice for our children. It requires a commitment and an involvement that can be difficult for many people, and it also requires conflict and asks the leader to not always be the most popular person. Remember, great coaches are coaches, not buddies. They should be respected by all team members and should be focused on making everyone—individually and collectively—better, more prepared and more successful—today and tomorrow.