We’re surrounded by social media and stalked by e-mail, which follows us on every device we carry.
We’re texting our kids (who won’t do e-mail) and instant messaging our coworkers (who may sit 10 feet away).We’re talking on our cell phones while driving. We’re getting updates about family and friends from Facebook. We are communication multitaskers gone wild.Yet one of the great oddities of our time is that the more connections we make through technology, the more frazzled and overwhelmed we feel.“It’s actually harder to communicate today,” says communications coach Stacey Hanke, president of 1st Impression Consulting in Chicago. “Now that we have so many options in social media, a lot of people are hiding behind the technology. Face-to-face communication is becoming a lost art.”What if a few simple changes in your day-to-day communication style could pump up your confidence as a public speaker, or raise your profile as a leader? Simply paying closer attention to how you’re communicating in your ordinary, day-to-day encounters can actually do that, says Hanke, author of a book, Yes, You Can!, about effective communication strategies.“It’s not just what you say, but how you say it,” she says.That means making a conscious effort to be more mindful of the way you talk to everyone around you. It means tuning into your tone of voice and the words you choose to get your meaning across. It means focusing your attention on that one person and really engaging.“With most of our conversations, we’re trying to have an impact,” Hanke says. “Even tiny changes in how you communicate can be extremely beneficial. Eliminate the static that plagues your face-to-face communication and everything else will dramatically improve.”I came across a great example of the power of communication in a recent conversation with CIO Tony Bender of Alberto Culver. He’s managing a global SAP rollout that runs 80 percent of the company’s business, which is in personal-care products. “It really requires a tremendous amount of leadership, up and down in the organization, when you’re going through something like this,” he says.A vital part of that leadership is how he communicates. From the beginning of the implementation, Bender held daily 30-minute meetings with the core team members, followed by a daily e-mail update to the entire enterprise.“This is a very broad communication to the business about where we are,” he says. “Every morning, I tell people what we did yesterday—always in business metrics, like what shipped, how many orders we got in, what ship levels we need to attain.”While the updates contain mostly practical details, he also includes motivational messages about upcoming focus areas and improvements. This steady-state communication strategy—with a lot of face-to-face conversations as well as e-mail follow-ups—made intuitive sense to Bender, an experienced CIO who’s managed other ERP rollouts.“When you’re navigating something like this,” he adds, “it requires a higher touch to get people feeling more confident.”An in-person conversation can do that. So take a breather from your multi-tasking, device-juggling existence and see for yourself.