72% of Gen Z said that they prefer in-person contact. Yes, I said that correctly. Nearly three-quarters of the youngest generation currently entering our workforce, the generation that is arguably the most technologically savvy, the one that we feel is most tied to their devices – yes, three-quarters of that generation said they prefer in-person contact.
However, 36% of managers, over a third of the managers, rated poor communication skills among those young workers. So here we have this huge group of new, budding, excited employees; they’re just entering the workforce and they’re saying, “I want to be in person,” and a third of the managers, they’re saying, “That’s great, but you suck at it. You’re no good, and you don’t know how to communicate.” How is this happening?
Well look, I have, two of my three kids are in Gen Z, but they’re on the younger side. They’re still in high school, they haven’t really entered the workforce yet. But if we think about the timeframe, the timing of the current Gen Z, the ones that are in the workplace, let’s think about where they’ve been. They have been forced into seclusion, forced into technology, forced into communicating through little boxes, through little devices, all text, email – nothing, nothing that requires them to be in person within physical proximity of other human beings.
Majority of their post-high school, their college education, their formal training even, some of them were hired only virtually; they never even met anybody in person. And now, we as a society or organizations are throwing them into a lion’s den essentially. We are taking these individuals who have these amazing hard skills, they’ve reached the GPA, they’ve graduated with this degree, they look amazing on paper. They knew how to get through their interview, and we are saying, fantastic, you’ve got these hard skills. Come in and do this job, but now we’re going to throw you in with people, with other human beings that are actually complex organisms.
They are not machines that when you say 1, 2, 3, it repeats 1, 2, 3.
Human beings, with all of these complex emotions, experiences, and backgrounds, and we’re asking them to do this job within an environment that has so many variables. They are put into an unknown environment, a completely new experience. It is just like a child for the first time going to school, where they didn’t necessarily know how to interact and play with other kids. They’ve been at home playing solo or maybe with one or two siblings, but then we throw them into a community and they had to learn.
We’re asking these essentially children to do the same. Yet most organizations, leaders, or teams haven’t really been prepared to think about this skill gap, and it is specifically a soft skill of communication. And communication is the cornerstone for organizational results. So there is an opportunity, a pure opportunity for training of these new employees coming in. They just need to be trained on the skills.
Is some of it basic etiquette? Is some of it, how to have eye contact, how to have small talk, how to ask questions, how to listen properly? Yes, absolutely! Some of it may be a little bit more of an elevated level, but what are you offering as a leader, as a team, as an organization, to provide these skills when you’ve got some potentially amazing, amazing Gen Z employees who are rocking those hard skills, and all they need is to have the training to uplevel their communication?
If you’re interested, that’s what we do here at The Corporate Refinery. Message me, let’s talk further. Support the next generation coming into the workforce, you’ve got your superstars right there in front of you!
Look, communication is the cornerstone to get the results that you want. Whether that’s for an entire organization to have streamlined communication across teams and departments, leaders, and individuals, whether that’s to have stellar communication for leaders to mobilize people and the direction that they want to, or whether just you as an employee with another employee, a colleague, a peer, getting them to say yes or no or agree to something – communication is the cornerstone.
Today, I want to share with you three very common barriers that we see when it comes to effective communication. The three things that we see pop up most often that are keeping people from having a truly effective message get out there.
And when I say effective, I mean your message is delivered and it gets people to do what you want them to do.
That’s the essence, so let’s start with the first barrier, which is overcomplicating the message or overcomplicating the communication. While yes, we want to provide details, we want to make sure that there aren’t details that are irrelevant to the topic at hand. All too often, I will be on-site with a team in the middle of training and we’ll be having some debrief or dialogue and I’ll say, “Tell me more.”
The tell me more shouldn’t mean I need to hear the past five years of history of 50 people involved in this, the tell me more really should be, tell me more of the details that are relevant to this point. So as you are crafting your message, whether that’s an email, whether that’s a response to someone, a presentation, really make sure that you are not overcomplicating it; that you’ve got the appropriate details, that you have the right data, the data that creates the most impact without causing confusion or too many data points.
Really keep things from being overly complicated, that is a huge barrier that we see. The second one is when people are too emotional. Now look, there is a time and a place to have emotion that’s meant for inspiring. When there’s energy that needs to be in your message, absolutely. But when the other side of emotion starts to take over, the actual communication is missed. The audience, whether that’s one person you’re speaking to, whoever is listening to this message, they are lost in your emotion, and they’re missing the key to the message.
And it’s so ironic, because just this morning as I was preparing this video, the book that I’m reading, it’s not necessarily about communication it’s about sales, but I want to read this quote to you. The author’s name is Jeb Blount, and he says, “In every sales conversation, the person who exerts the greatest amount of emotional control has the highest probability of getting the outcome they desire.” I would say Jeb hit it on the head, and not just in a sales conversation, it’s in any conversation.
The person who has the greatest emotional control, meaning they’re not letting their jealousy, their frustration, their anxiety, the negative emotions – when they’ve got those under control, they’re going to get the outcome that they desire.
Whichever person has that, that’s going to be the clear winner. So, second barrier being too emotional or emotional on the non-energy, non-enthusiasm side. And the third barrier is purely body language. We get brought in to work with people on presentations, even as little as how they’re holding a microphone, where their eye contact is, how they’re standing, what their posture is. So, our bodies convey a particular message.
And because your audience, again, whether this is just you going in to speak with a senior leader or one of your direct reports, that person, your audience sees you, your body, before most likely they ever hear a word come out of your mouth. So your body language has to be matching what the message is that you’re about to communicate. Your body does not lie, it just doesn’t.
So make sure that your body language is aligned to the message. So that’s the third barrier. Share with us, what is keeping you, what have you heard? Maybe you’ve seen this or you’ve received feedback. What’s a common barrier to effective communication that you’ve seen in the workplace? Comment below, we’d love to hear from you!
Just wrapped up delivering “Breakthrough, the Promotional Pipeline” here at HR Southwest, and it was so interesting to me that as I looked at the full agenda, what the conference titles and topics were over the course of three days of this conference, that overwhelmingly they fell under one big umbrella, one big bucket.
And interestingly enough, it’s the third critical strategy that we share in “Breakthrough the Promotional Pipeline,” and this umbrella is communication. Communication! Although there were plenty of sessions on artificial intelligence, innovation, policies, and, procedures – communication was the key. So as you are starting to think about what’s next, what is your next opportunity? Where do you need to focus? I really encourage you to put a plan together around improving your communication.
The hard skills, right? Learning the technology, all of those hard skills, is going to get you to a certain place. In fact, after the session, I had a very, very bright young woman come and chat with me. And man, she is a dynamo you can tell, at the data analyst role. I mean, hard skills down pat. But to get to the next level, she’s got to be able to present in front of a group, communicate with her managers, be able to communicate with her peers, and possibly direct reports.
So, do not take this lightly. As you’re looking for that next level, it has got to be communication. I recently shared a story with you that I have been talking about this to my kids since Ethan, who’s now a senior, when he was in fifth or sixth grade. It is what is going to separate you from all of the people who have the same hard skills, or maybe you even have slightly better hard skill knowledge.
If you don’t have the soft skills of communication to demonstrate it, to project it, to really showcase it, you’re going to be stuck.
So if you want to break through that promotional pipeline, if you want to get to your next opportunity, go out there and improve the communication. Put that plan together!
When my son, Ethan, was in sixth grade, he was invited to a birthday party. It wasn’t for one of his core group of friends, but he knew this kid pretty well from school and it was at a laser tag place, and this is during the age where as a parent you could drop them off at the beginning of the party and pick them up at the end. So it’s the end of the party, I walk into the room where they’ve had pizza and cake and the birthday kid has opened his gifts, and I see Ethan sitting over at a table by himself.
On the car ride home, I asked Ethan, “Hey, tell me about the party.” He says, “Oh, it was awesome, mom! I was so great at laser tag, and this happened,” and he’s going on and on, it’s fantastic. I then asked, “Hey, I saw that you were sitting at a table by yourself. Tell me about that.” Well, he says, I was sitting at the table with all the kids, but they were texting each other, so I decided to move over there.
Well, this is during a time in sixth grade when Ethan had not asked for a cell phone, could care less about a cell phone, so he didn’t have a cell phone – but apparently all of the other kids at the party had one, and they were texting each other while they were sitting next to one another. I shared with Ethan that it is absolutely important to understand and have good knowledge about technology, and have good knowledge in school and your academics.
But if all things are equal on that knowledge, there is one thing that is going to be the differentiator, the thing that is going to separate you from everyone else – and that is your ability to communicate. Communication is at the foundation, it is absolutely that foundational piece that creates the trifecta for what elite performers need.
Elite performers have to have that ability for high emotional intelligence, that high EQ, to be able to master their emotions. High elite performers need to be able to have these interpersonal skills. Again, even with artificial intelligence and technology here, the ability to interact with others. And then finally, that human relationship; being able to establish and cultivate human relations. These are the differentiators. This is the trifecta of what makes an elite performer, and it all begins with that foundation of communication.
So I challenge you, if you are looking to accelerate, to be an even greater elite performer than you already are today, where are you at on that spectrum in terms of communication? What do you look like in terms of your emotional intelligence? Do you have that ability for interpersonal skills? Are you able to cultivate human relations?
We are seeing right now that there is a need at companies and organizations, especially as the next generation is entering the workforce, where they were completely sheltered with technology alone for all learning and interaction, there is now a need for pure basics of etiquette training. How to have appropriate social conversations or maintain appropriate eye contact.
So where are we in that regard? If we want to reach that elite performance, it’s got to start with the basics of communication before we start looking at the technology, for you to reach the next level.
All right, I am working from home. I have stepped outside of the studio to bring to you a thought for today. It’s a beautiful day in Southern California, I had an opportunity to eat lunch outside, and working from home is something I really, really fought for when I was a corporate executive – especially when I was in a leadership role. I traveled a lot, the expectations were really high, and working from home just that one day a week afforded me an extra hour of sleep, I got time back from commuting so that I could see my family, start household chores, whatever it looked like.
And even today, working from home provides that for me. My husband commutes several miles, his commute is horrendous round trip. So I am the primary person handling household responsibilities and the child-rearing responsibilities. And on average, it tends to be women who do that. Even when both partners, a woman and their partner work, it tends to be the women who take on more of those responsibilities. In some cases, adding up 20 to 30 hours per week.
So I get it, I understand the draw and the advantages to working from home and having that flexibility. I mean, I have two teenagers who are still at home, and I got to see Reese this morning before she headed out to the mall with her girlfriends and Ethan before he took off to go meet up with friends at the beach, so that was great! And if I want to, at the end of my day, I can pre-start a load of laundry or start cooking dinner early, so those are some great advantages.
We’ve fought to have this flexibility to work from home, but it’s come with a cost. The cost is this “drop to the top.” And what we mean is that while we have been fighting for the acceleration of women in leadership, we are now seeing that there is a decline in the number of women in leadership roles. And I fear it will only get worse. Although organizations are implementing more return to office policies, there are still a lot of people who have the flexibility of hybrid or are 100% remote. And on average, it tends to be more women who are choosing to work from home.
I fear that this is just bridging the gap, or widening the gap, excuse me, even further – that women are now not in the office. There’s a lack of visibility, a lack of opportunity, and a lack of promotion. It’s just going to get worse if we don’t take preventative measures. So if you are a woman who is looking to continue to accelerate in leadership, I really encourage you that yes, take advantage of any flexibility you have, but if you can be in the office one or two more days per week, find the schedule that works for you to be as well balanced if you will, as possible in both your professional and personal life.
But be in the office and then maximize that time in the office! Make sure it’s on days where the senior leaders, those decision-makers, are there. Make sure you are being seen, network, be heard, and advocate for yourself. If you are not willing to accommodate that, then those choices are that you potentially have that – that lack of visibility and lack of opportunity. Now, for those of you in senior leadership positions, please reach out, partner, and come up with a good communication strategy so that everybody can rise and the organization can benefit as a whole!
We know that one of the major causes of people leaving their jobs is burnout. And right now, 50% of managers are still experiencing burnout – and you might be one of them. I was one of them. In 2013, I had an entire year plus of suffering through burnout. To the point where at the end of that year I said, “I’ve got to quit my job, I cannot do this anymore. I have to quit to save my family, save myself.” You probably know the story, I did not quit. I ended up recovering from burnout, I stayed at my job for four more years, I stayed married, and I raised kids.
But you may be right in the middle of where I was at that time, where the burnout just keeps getting flamed and flamed and flamed, to the point where you are really considering quitting your job. Before you make that decision, I want to offer one question for you to answer. And that one question is, what is the root cause of my burnout? What is the root cause?
Now if you would’ve asked me that back in 2013, I would’ve said, “Oh, all of my accounts I call on, all the travel I do, the house cleaning, the laundry, the grocery shopping, picking up my kids from school,” literally, I can still rattle the list that I rattled all those years ago. But when I really sat down and challenged myself to say, but what’s that root cause, what’s at the foundation of all of those things?
It was me; I was the root cause of my burnout.
I was the one who said yes to that promotion that meant I had all of these accounts and did all of this travel. I was the one who said, “No, I don’t need help,” with the laundry. I was the one who didn’t ask for somebody else to do something. It was all me. So I’m going to challenge you. What’s the root cause of your burnout? It’s you. Now, this is painful. I was in so much pain. But here’s the good news. When you’re the root cause of something bad, it means you can be the root cause of the change of the good on the other side!
So this is where we want to get to. We’ve got to first identify that you’ve caused it, but now you can create the change. And the number one action that you’re going to take from here is communication. A huge mistake that I’ve seen too many executives, especially middle managers, make, is that they assume their boss, their manager knows all of the workload that they have, knows everything that they’re working on. And it’s completely false. Your manager is tied up in their own stuff, they don’t have any idea everything you’re doing day in and day out.
They have no idea, even if you’ve communicated, “Hey, I’m feeling burned out, this is a lot,” they don’t understand the details. So you’ve got to come up with a communication plan professionally, and for some of you personally. If you are interested in knowing how we work with organizations, teams, and executives on their communication plans, how to communicate, whether that’s out of burnout or anything else that’s happening in the organization, message me, let me know! But your first step today is to really come to terms with the fact that you are the root cause of your burnout, and the good news is you get to be the change.