Staying Ahead of the Learning Curve—Q&A with Jodi Glickman

Part II of our interview with Great on the Job author Jodi Glickman. Jodi is an entrepreneur, author, public speaker, consultant and regular blogger for Harvard Business Review. She is a faculty member of the Johnson School’s Leadership Program at Cornell and a contributor to and Business Insider. Her new book: Great on the Job, What to Say, How to Say It, The Secrets of Getting Ahead has been described as a veritable master class in workplace success.

Q:What are some communication skills that are closely identified with what we call high-potentials? How can adopting the traits of a highly effective communicator help one get ahead?

Jodi: Time and time again I’m asked about the most important qualities needed to get ahead in the workplace. In my opinion, dynamic and honed communication skills are the keys to success at work.

One of the most distinguishing features in a strong communicator is generosity. A generous communicator shares information readily, shares credit broadly, and gives of their time and expertise selflessly. A generous communicator always leads with the punch line—sharing what’s new, different or important up front—so that your listener doesn’t have to guess at what you’re talking about or spend 10 minutes listening to you when they only have two minutes to spare.

Highly effective communicators also take initiative. They ask for help when they need it; they go get answers or information when they don’t have it; they ask for feedback rather than waiting for it to appear and they think ahead about their workload so they can manage the expectations of those around them.

Good communicators also think about forward momentum—what comes next, what is still outstanding, what do you or I need to do to move the ball forward? Staying focused on next steps will signal to people that you’re on the ball and you’re getting things done, you’re not resting on your laurels or waiting for direction from your boss to make your next move.

Finally, good communicators are transparent. They share information openly and keep people in the loop. They tell you why they’re calling or what they’re dropping by your office to discuss. They let you know when a problem is coming down the pipeline and raise issues early rather than hiding behind problems. Transparency builds trust.

Q: Can you identify a few essential communication skills that you feel a majority of people lack? Has the proliferation of digital communication eroded some of the basics?

Jodi: One common casualty of the digital era is the ability to communicate effectively face-to-face. With so much interaction happening electronically, it’s not surprising that young people’s interpersonal skills need some fine-tuning. For example, at the start of a new job, many young people don’t know how to properly introduce themselves (i.e. full name, school attended, what they’ve been hired to do). Many of us have also fallen into the trap of paying attention only to our smart phones rather than to each other. When you’re walking down the hall or standing in the elevator (or sitting at a meeting), put the iPhone or BlackBerry away and really pay attention to others and to what’s going on around you.

Another key communication skill that is critical is the ability to ask for help.  In the age of “I’ll just Google it,” many people are used to getting answers to basic questions online and many fear looking foolish when they don’t know how to do something. The truth is, by not asking for help up front, you set yourself up to fail on the back end. When you get an assignment you don’t know how to do, ask for the resources and guidance you’ll need to do the job well. Asking for help in a smart way shows you to be thoughtful and have good judgment. Not asking for help invariably leads you to handing in a sub-par deliverable or disappointing your boss.

Stay tuned for part 3 next week. Subscribe to the Big Red Blog for email updates.