By Mercy Harper
Listen and follow "The New Rules of Business" wherever you get your podcasts: Apple | Spotify | Google Podcasts
Here’s a New Year's resolution for every boss out there. Can you try writing more clearly in the emails you send? And maybe actually reading the ones you receive?
Because 70% of employees say that poor digital communications are draining their performance. Leaders aren’t the sole source of this problem. But according to communications expert Erica Dhawan, they’re the only ones who can truly solve it. On the latest episode of "The New Rules of Business," Chief Co-Founder Carolyn Childers talks to the author of Digital Body Language about how we can learn what we’re saying with our digital body language in order to strengthen our leadership in the now, very remote workplace.
"Research shows 60 to 70% of our face-to-face communication is body language. In a digital or hybrid world, body language doesn’t disappear — it just transforms into what I call digital body language. It’s the cues and signals we send in all our digital communications that make up the subtext of our messages," says Dhawan. "It’s things like the choice of communication medium. It’s how quickly you respond. It’s whether you have a clear subject line. It’s whether you use emojis and exclamation points."
Leaders need to be thoughtful and deliberate about their digital body language — and yes, that also applies to those of us who are already excellent in-person communicators. On the podcast, Dhawan shares the story of an executive who was perceived as having poor empathy. In face to face conversations, she asked good questions and showed every team member they were valued. "But her digital body language was abysmal," says Dhawan. "She was the type of executive who would send low-context messages, multitask, and chronically cancel meetings at the last minute after teams spent days planning."
Dhawan offers practical ways leaders can improve their own digital communications and calm the chaos for their teams. Make sure each message from you answers the who, what, and when — and encourage your team to follow the same format. Use emojis and GIFs, because they’re the "new smile" in the virtual workplace. In Zoom calls, think of yourself as a TV show host. Within the first three minutes, clarify what success looks like and how you want people to engage. And if people aren’t engaging, ask why.
"Executive presence is no longer about handshakes, head nods, and dressing a certain way,” says Dhawan. "It’s using the camera, the chat, and whiteboards to engage everyone. And last but certainly not least, it’s about not being afraid to ask and check in. Don’t assume you know the answer of what’s going on with your team."
Listen to the full episode on "The New Rules of Business" and be sure to follow wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes drop every Tuesday.