How Communication Training Leads to Superstar Teams
By Deborah Eastman
I’ve spent much of my life working in sales. That’s meant lots of time flying or driving on the way to meet a client. Typically, we’d meet in conference rooms; if things went well, we’d do dinner. No matter what, we spent time face-to-face. If I made a meh first impression (it happens), I’d sometimes get the chance to make a better second or third impression.
In today’s digital world, however, it’s rare that I fly or drive to meet clients in-person. In fact, most of our communication happens via digital platforms, like email, text, conference calls, and video conferences. This doesn’t just apply to clients or prospects. Given the distributed nature of our teams, I’m more likely to email my colleagues, send them a slidedoc, and follow up with a conference call where we can really talk. And I’m not alone:
- 2.4 million emails are sent every second (source)
- 781 billion text messages are sent per month (source)
- 66% of older managers prioritize in-person communication rather than remote, but millennials prefer digital communication (source)
The rapid growth of tech has made transmitting information easier and faster than ever before. But the unexpected consequence is that in-person communication is both more rare and higher stakes. That’s one of the many reasons organizations should put be putting a premium on communication training.
Communication skills training can teach people to craft and deliver better presentations. At the core of both those skills is the art of connecting with people, which isn’t something we all do naturally. That ability to relate and resonate can make or break your career. Managers can better motivate employees. Sales and account teams can read the room and determine how to persuasively present your products and services. Why? Because they know to think about who they’re talking to and what matters to that audience. Let’s dive into how communication training can help a variety of your teams.
Communication Training Helps Your Analytical Types Articulate Ingenious Ideas
I spent years working with customer experience analysts who were so good at analyzing numbers they could get lost in their own data. Their analysis showed how they could improve the customer experience, but they often forgot that those numbers (on the surface) meant very little to anyone else.
To help them communicate their brilliant findings to company leaders, we’d work together to turn those numbers into meaningful insights. Then, we’d use those insights to tell a story about the impact on one individual customer. This type of story, about one person’s experience, moved people’s minds and hearts – and inspired action.
Your team of analysts is probably stacked with numerical geniuses who can slice and dice data.
But they might not know that data alone doesn’t inspire action, stories do.
If those analysts aren’t trained to communicate what that data means to your audience, your company could miss out on an incredible opportunity.
Communication Training Helps Your Sales People Sell
I recently talked to a company that had decided the best way to build their reputation was to hit the speaker circuit.
But, just because someone can design product, doesn’t mean they can sell it.
Great ideas can be the foundation of companies, but a company can’t grow if nobody understands what it does. Building common ground with an audience, delivering facts with a story structure, and presenting confidently will arm your people with the tools to explain how your solution works and why people should care.
Communication Training Helps Your Execs Navigate A Crisis
An organizational crisis can be extremely trying for a business. Clear, empathetic communication is the most critical tool to guide your team through it and help them emerge stronger.
In our most recent book, Illuminate, there’s a great example of a company that was able to steer away from impending disaster when execs learned how to better communicate.
During the early 1990s, IBM began to slip behind its competitors and bankruptcy loomed. Facing a crisis, the company hired their first new CEO from outside its ranks – Louis Gerstner Jr. He faced not only a failing company, but also a team of resistant colleagues.
Gerstner knew he had to create an internal shift. He first went on a “listening tour,” making sure all employees felt heard. Then, he shaped a communication strategy based on what he learned. Finally, Gerstner went all in with “Operation: Bear Hug.” Execs and managers learned to directly address customer and employee dissatisfaction and recap those conversations in a memo. Then, they bear-hugged their colleagues.
It may sound a little silly, but this change in communication strategy created a drastic shift in IBM’s culture. It helped reinvigorate the company and direct it toward becoming the market-driven innovator it is today.
Communication Training Helps Managers Get The Most Out Of Their Team
Poor communication is at the root of many in-office productivity issues. In fact, studies have shown that 28% of people that believe poor communication is the primary reason professionals fail to deliver projects on time. Also, in a survey by HR Magazine, 46% of employees said that they often receive unclear directions from bosses and managers – at least 3 times per day.
That’s a lot of miscommunication.
Poor communication doesn’t just impact productivity – it also impacts morale. Studies show that companies with effective communications practices have turnover rates 50% lower than their industry average – which means that if your company has poor communication practices, it may have a hard time with keeping employees happy and retaining them.
Train your managers to be fantastic communicators and they’ll lead a happy and productive team.
When Starbucks was struggling in 2008, CEO Howard Schultz knew that he had to create a shift within Starbucks retail locations in order to rescue the company. He decided to host a conference in New Orleans for thousands of Starbucks store managers.
During the conference, Schultz spoke frankly with the managers about the company’s financial woes. He then had the managers help undertake re-building and charitable projects. He gave out t-shirts with positive, empathetic messages on them – like “Onward” and “Believe in the Power of 10,000.” He also held interactive exercises, teaching managers to use empathy, compassion, and positivity when running their teams and stores.
By the end of the conference, he asked each manager to sign his or her name on a wall of commitment – committing to running their retail location with the new empathetic communication skills they acquired. After the conference, Starbucks as a whole experienced a cultural shift – and the company climbed back to profit.
The Power of Communication Training
I recently had the pleasure of attending a client event at Irvine Company. This company understands the importance of communication training, and they have embedded presentation training, or what they call Executive Presence, into their management training program. Individuals are nominated by their boss to attend an extensive 8-month program, and Duarte is fortunate enough to be a part of that program. Each of the team members learns the core concepts in our VisualStory® and Captivate workshops. At the end of the program, they present what they took away from the training to their boss, peers, and senior executives. This last event literally shows the importance and power of effective communication and the presentations I saw were stellar.