With decades of experience in business communications, Carlton James has a well-practiced understanding of how valuable communication skills can be for an organization. However, that value has become even more apparent in the last year, as social distancing and similar requirements due to the COVID pandemic have literally forced people in every background of life to communicate differently.
Carlton James notes that technology has always been a tool for accomplishing tasks that otherwise take longer or involve a bigger challenge. However, when COVID hit, technology moved into the mainstream of communication at every functional level. Folks communicated with phones, email, and computers, but they still engaged face to face in person until COVID. There was video-conferencing, but it really didn’t become a daily tool until distance became a necessity. Suddenly, communicating online and in digital format was the new normal. And that came with new protocols, rules, expectations, and challenges Carlton James has discovered.
The new normal has become very attractive as well. Carlton James notes it produces a significant amount of operational savings, cutting back on business travel costs. Companies of all sizes have realized the difference and found they could operate just fine with digital communications, in fact even better in some cases. Carlton James reflects that the new normal also increased awareness and contact times as well. People could reach out day or night and connect far more frequently, breaking the barrier of the end of the traditional workday, increasing productivity and information sharing. However, all of those benefits come at a cost. People started struggling with online meeting overload.
The lessons learned are apparent and vivid. Folks have to relearn their communication skills to match the new paradigm of the digital world. Many will want to go back to the way things were prior to COVID, but that’s not likely to happen. The social distancing requirements opened a Pandora’s Box that won’t go back in time again.
The first step for everyone in adjustment is to stop resisting technology adaption. Carlton James advises its arrival should be integrated versus avoided. Instead of focusing energy on disliking a tool, learning new communication skills in the digital arena means being willing to adapt and try new things. Find their advantages in a person’s specific workflow and where they make things easier and better than harder. Then put emphasis on those advantages the most.
Second, Carlton James adds that good communication skills involve balance, knowing when to use the right tools and when to switch. That also means not letting the tools run one’s life but instead being a help to it. There is a clear advantage to a break in the workday; it lets people rest, reassess, and communicate better the next day. Trying to handle too much for too long creates mistakes. Being tired causes one to miss details, and those can become big issues later on.
Third, with increased communication capability comes faster and more fluid movement of information. From Carlton James’ experience, that can be advantageous in terms of timeliness, but it can also reduce the accuracy of the information and the time it takes to verify data before it’s shared. Folks are well-served by resisting the urge to communicate as quickly as possible. A measured approach in distribution gives one a chance to temper what’s going to be said, written, or provided. And those little mistakes that can turn into big problems can be avoided effectively as well. There’s a truth to sleeping on things and waking up with a clear head in the morning. When people are tired, they miss things, but being rested has always brought valuable clarity when it’s needed the most.
Carlton James doesn’t expect the world to be perfect with technology overnight, but it will smooth itself out. We will all look back on 2020 as that year when the light switch popped and suddenly everything was different. Until then, adjustment is the key. Communication will always be essential for businesses and organizations. Folks just have to be willing to shift when the floor moves under everyone’s feet once in a while. Carlton James has been doing that for decades.