Dr. Naomi Baron: Maximizing and Using Digital Communication Skills In Leadership, Episode #21

Digital communication skills are something every leader in this day and age need to not only learn but master. The digital nature of the way we communicate has brought a number of challenges with it that we need to understand and address effectively. Dr. Naomi Baron was invited to be my guest on this episode simply because her expertise in the realm of communication makes her a wonderful person to educate leaders about the new forms of communication that exist, how they are being used, and how the relationship between language and leadership can be maximized in the digital age. Dr. Baron is a former Guggenheim Fellow, Fulbright Fellow, and Visiting Scholar at the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and has published eight books.

Leadership is about how we use language

Leadership is definitely about influence, but how does that influence primarily take place? The only way influence can really take place is through communication, either verbal or non-verbal. That is one of the things Dr. Baron intimates when she says that leadership is really about how we use language. Influence cannot be effectively exerted without skill at communicating things like vision, processes, strategies, and more. Join me for this conversation with Dr. Baron as she shares extensively from her own research and the research of others about how communication in the digital age is changing the way leaders need to relate to the people they lead.

Leaders of digital teams should remember this maxim: “Less haste = more speed”

The rapid pace at which communication happens via digital means pushes all of us into a mindset where immediate responses and multitasking seem to be mandatory. But Dr. Baron points out that when we don’t take the time to proofread what we key into a device, which often happens with texting and messaging, we actually make more work for ourselves and waste energy and time in the communication. She advises that leaders of digital teams develop the digital communication skill of patient and careful responses. This will enable them to avoid the re-dos necessary to make up for mistakes that were made through haste. Insights like this are one of the reasons I was eager to have Dr. Baron on the show. Please take the time to listen to this episode. You will learn a great deal about the need for better digital communication skills and how to develop them.

Leaders of teams need to set communication standards and model them

For the sake of effectiveness and efficiency in the workplace, it is imperative that leaders of teams clearly set expectations around the use of digital communication. Team members need to know what forms of communication are important and accepted, and what time frames are expected in relation to communication with team members and customers or clients. But in addition, Dr. Baron points out that leaders need to model those standards just as much as they need to create them. Demonstration of good practices is one of the key ways that anyone in a position of authority is able to communicate the importance and practicality of the standard that has been set forth. If you are a leader, have you established standards for your team’s digital communication practices? If so, are you demonstrating them in your own behavior?

There is incredible power in a prompt digital thank you

As Dr. Baron and I wrapped up our conversation she shared one of the most powerful lessons she has learned about the use of digital communication. Anyone can send an email to say thank you, but the speed with which a person is able to do it communicates volumes about their intentionality in the relationship. Dr. Baron shares a few examples where she was thanked via email or text for something she had done, within hours of having done it. The immediacy of the gesture is what impressed her most and gave her a very positive and favorable impression of the person on the other end of the communication. She points out that if the thank you had come weeks later, it would not have meant so much to her and she would not have the same impression of the person. This is a lesson leaders can apply immediately. The mindfulness to be quick with thanks or appreciation can go a long way toward building relationships that last and fuel our success.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:22] Dr. Baron’s idea of what leadership really is and how communication figures into it
  • [3:50] Is there a difference between onscreen and offscreen reading?
  • [8:32] Do newfound forms of communication impact HOW we communicate?
  • [13:36] The most common communication challenges, including in digital communication
  • [19:50] Dr. Baron’s view of the similarities and differences between how genders communicate
  • [28:15] What has changed in communication because of devices?
  • [38:55] What questions should leaders be asking to better lead digital teams?
  • [42:20] Does digital communication differ depending on work hierarchy?
  • [47:30] The incredible power of a prompt digital thank-you

Resources & People Mentioned

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