By Debbie Dyson, Corporate Vice President, Client Experience & Continuous Improvement
“Leadership in the New World Order” is a topic we recently addressed at the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit, a gathering of professional women who share a vision of empowerment, improvement and strengthening our sisterhood. We addressed what it means to be a leader in the “new world order” and discovered that the fundamentals of successful leaders today really aren’t that new at all – it’s the status quo that’s changed. Strong leaders need to focus on a tried-and-true skill – communication. Here’s why.
The workforce today is made up of five generations – which is both wonderful and unprecedented. This creates a whole new set of challenges for business leaders, and at the core, the bulk of them are about communication. To start, each generation in the workforce uses a different “language” to communicate. The example I always use to explain this is a skit from Ellen DeGeneres. She depicts an older woman attempting to signal to a younger person to roll down the car window, using a crank-like motion. The younger person had no idea what the crank motion meant, but when the woman switched to a motion of putting your finger on a button, there was an instant understanding. It shows the true challenge of communication – you can say one thing as a leader that may completely resonate with some, but it won’t with all.
Leaders today also need to think about how people like to receive communication. We often hear about millennials and their “impatience”… this isn’t a generation thing. We’re all living in 2017 with smartphones and social media where there is a new level of meaning to the word hurry. We are millennial wannabes, because we want everything in the same instant way – we get annoyed if our packages take longer than two days to arrive, and especially so if there is no communication that clarifies why. So while specific behaviors might not apply to EVERY generation, speed is a huge component of how we ALL communicate in 2017.
Here are the three most important things leaders need to consider to be effective communicators.
1. Communicate with intent.
Social media, email, text messages, instant messenger, and the list goes on. In today’s distraction-filled environment, it’s more important than ever to ensure your messages come across the way you intended. This is especially top of mind for me as we work with our clients, and our ADP team that is on the front lines of communicating with them day in, day out. It’s important to communicate effectively and with clarity to cut through the clutter and ensure there is no confusion.
2. Read your audience.
Truly effective communicators know how to read an audience, tailor their communications appropriately, and even throw out the script when necessary! If our client calls us and sounds like they’re in a rush, they don’t want us to ask them how their day was in three different ways. Be mindful of your audience when establishing your tone, message, and desired outcome.
3. Strive for authenticity.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the course of my career is to know your strengths, and play to them. This is important in communication if you want your message to be authentic. For example, not everyone is a good public speaker, so learn what medium of communication makes you comfortable, and lead with that when possible.
This “new world order,” where the workforce spans multiple generations who are all speaking a different “language” and are impatient to act, has certainly created a communications challenge for employers. To be effective today, leaders need to embrace the new status quo and ensure their communications are intentional, flexible and authentic.