Regardless of how you handle face-to-face interactions, a new set of rules have emerged in the increasingly digital workplace. That was the message from Erica Dhawan, founder and CEO of Cotential, in her Tuesday keynote address for the Association for Talent Development’s Virtual Conference. Dhawan pointed out that mastering digital body language is a key leadership skill, particularly since much of workplace communication is now entirely digital.
What is digital body language, and how can we exhibit it more effectively? Dhawan, co-author of Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence, answered those questions in her address. She explained that digital body language is the cues and signals individuals send in digital communication that clarify the subtext of their messages.
Early in the session, Dhawan stated that mastering digital body language means knowing when to send a text, when to pick up the phone, and when it is appropriate to schedule a video meeting. Moreover, those who are digital body language gurus practice good etiquette when using the reply all feature in emails.
Dhawan pointed out that reading emails carefully is the new level of listening, and writing clear messages is the new understanding. After establishing the foundation for the discussion, Dhawan offered a three-pronged framework by which to choose the ideal communication medium: analyze the length, complexity, and familiarity of the message.
And don’t be afraid to change the channel when you need to, she advised. “If it’s a confusing text message, move to a phone call; if there’s an email exchange with a group of people that’s not working any more, set up that video meeting,” Dhawan added.
Within the presentation, she explained five key principles of individually mastering your digital body language, which included finding your voice. Taking it a step further, Dhawan detailed four elements for digital trust and collaboration specifically for team communication: Value visibly, communicate clearly, communicate confidently, and trust totally. She also touched on the role COVID-19 has played in the workforce’s rapid adoption to digital collaboration.
Dhawan likewise highlighted digital communication best practices that she has used when working with teams, and she shared a couple of those ideas during her presentation. For example, the elimination of greetings and signatures in emails can be established as a digital body language norm among teams, and terms like NNTR can be used to indicate there’s no need to respond in an effort to avoid lots of thank-you emails from a large group of people.
Tuesday’s keynote address proved to be ideal for those looking to become better at digital body language, as well as those charged with sharing such concepts with others. Individuals looking to create a digital body framework for their organization can also use Dhawan’s strategies as a foundation.
During her session, Dhawan also provided links to other tools and resources for those who wanted to explore the topic further. ATD is recording all live sessions, which will be posted to the conference site by the end of the week and will remain accessible to all attendees through September 6, 2020.
Our most powerful asset is how we connect with one another, Dhawan surmised. In the digital workplace, the innumerable opportunities to send the wrong signal, misunderstand colleagues, or inadvertently create confusion have surged to an all-time high. However, when done right, Dhawan reminded that good digital body language can build trust and collaboration across organizations.
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