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Webinar report: Self-marketing – Communicate yourself effectively at work

Webinar number three in her Self-Marketing series, Joanna Gaudoin explored tools and techniques that enhance communication in the workplace.

With her background in marketing and consultancy in large corporates, Joanna understands the communication challenges in the business world. 

Joanna founded Inside Out Image in 2011 to specialise in workplace relationships and skills that are rarely taught in formal settings. Clients of Inside Out Image include HSBC, RPC, Mastercard, Irwin Mitchell, Ashurst and Willis Towers Watson.

Quality communication – there’s more to it than talking

Clearly, the tone of voice we use and the words we choose tell people a great deal about our communication style. Also hugely important, though, are our appearance, our body language and our actions and behaviours during interactions with others. Do we look available and open to approach from others? Are we giving the people we’re speaking to our undivided attention? Have we chosen the right moment to approach and speak to another person? Is the person speaking to us assured that we’re listening to them? Thinking about these non-verbal elements of communication really pays off in a busy workplace full of differing personality types, especially when you consider hybrid working too.

This is especially true when we consider the wide range of touchpoints that modern day business communication involves. Think, for instance, how you come across in:

  • Face-to-face meetings;
  • Instant messaging platforms such as SMS and WhatsApp (including groups);
  • Phone calls;
  • Video calls such as Zoom and Teams;
  • Social media, such as LinkedIn;
  • Emails, letters and other written communications; and
  • The internet – Google yourself from time to time to see what other people may be seeing (and saying) about you.

Build rapport by building trust

Trust is the first foundation of a productive working relationship. Trustworthiness is the sum of your credibility, reliability and intimacy along with moderated self-orientation (your ability to avoid being too focused on your own concerns at the expense of the wider organisational considerations). With trust in place, communication is both easier and more effective. People who trust you will make time to listen to you, read your emails and engage fully with you.

Take time too to understand the different types of people across your organisation. You’ll find that some people may be task focused whereas others are relationally focused. Similarly, you’ll notice that while there are extroverts in some departments, introverts predominate in others. Adapting to these different types of personality is a skill mastered by all great communicators.

Also worth looking out for are people who exhibit The Four Tendencies as identified by Gretchen Rubin in her book of the same name. These are:

  • The Upholder, someone who wants to know what's expected of them, and how they can meet those expectations. They readily meet both inner and outer expectations;
  • The Obliger, someone who meets deadlines and tasks for colleagues and bosses but doesn’t follow up on things for themselves. Obligers meet outer expectations well; 
  • The Questioner, a person who seeks justifications for the things being asked of them. Questioners meet inner expectations easily; and
  • The Rebel, someone most likely to do things that they believe align with the identity they hold for themselves. They resist both inner and outer expectations.

Fine-tune your comms with a framework

Develop a framework that helps you set out the importance of your communications and how to plan your meetings, calls and other interactions with colleagues. Commit yourself to:

  • Making time for communication. Lack of it leaves a void which people will fill with their own beliefs and assumptions;
  • Deciding which types of communication should be in a formal setting - complete with agendas, invites, room hire and action notes - and which will work best informally; 
  • Making it clear why your message is important;
  • Teaching people how to treat you;
  • Using your emotional intelligence to gauge how people around you are feeling; and
  • Not skipping planned meetings where possible because a) you’ll miss out on valuable first-hand communication, and b) you risk leaving the impression that the meeting is not important to you.

As Joanna touched on in previous webinars in this series, listening is a vital element in communication. Unfortunately, few people are consistent active listeners. However, being aware of the six stages of listening can help us develop our listening skills. The six stages are:

  • Ignore – where someone is simply not listening;
  • Pretend – a person appears to be listening but is distracted;
  • Selective – where the person is waiting to speak;
  • Attentive – where the listener is offering time, attention and empathy; and
  • Active – when the listener feels what the speaker feels.

Dealing with difficult situations

Adopt this three-point plan for handling difficult situations.

1. Buy time to react to bad news. When you receive unsettling or vexing news or instructions, pause and take stock of negative emotions before responding. Take time to consider where the other person is coming from, assess all potential outcomes and then react rationally and calmly.

2. Define your default conflict mode. It could be that you are:

  • Competing;
  • Collaborating;
  • Avoiding; or
  • Accommodating.

You’ll find that you naturally veer toward one of these four but not necessarily all the time. Different situations call for different responses, so use your judgment to adopt the most appropriate mode for each situation.

3. Finally, have three honest conversations with yourself about the difficult situation. Ask yourself:

  • What happened – analyse the events that led to the situation, the possible outcomes, your role (if any) in the causes and next steps;
  • How you feel about it – you’re bound to feel upset, resentful and stressed in a difficult situation and that’s OK. However, look to minimise escalation through moderate language and measured responses; and
  • How it affects your identity – will the situation affect how people in the organisation see you - or how you see yourself? If so, use your analysis of your role in the situation to prepare your communications with colleagues as you work to resolve the situation.

You’ll find more self-marketing tips and insights from Joanna in her book, Getting On: Making work work, which is currently discounted to £12.50 for CLL delegates using code CLL233 until Monday 16 October.

The fourth and final webinar in this series, Manage your time, manage your sanity, is on 13 November. Register here.

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