3 keys to communication, engagement and influence
by Nathan Jamail

How many parents have a toddler that can work an iPhone or iPad better than they can? What about teens or young adults who cannot communicate except through texting, email or social media? With constantly evolving technology, these skills are increasingly important—but the ability to communicate face to face will always be one of the most important aspects of business. While younger generations preparing to enter the workforce should keep up with technology to remain relevant in today's economy, they should also continue to practice and focus on perfecting soft skills—communication, interpersonal interaction, influence and personal effectiveness in a social and business setting. Possession of these skills is the great differentiator in businesses of the future. Leaders can build the best team possible and help employees develop these relevant skills by doing three things: learn how to be a coach to your players, identify what you want to coach and commit to implementing a true practice program that requires the leader to participate.

1. Learn to Coach

Coaching is a highly used business buzzword today. However, much like the word "culture," it often carries very little impact. In professional sports, a coach drafts the best available players, and then commits to making them better. In business, leaders must do the same. The key is to change one's mindset from managing to coaching. The leader's actions must change from a reactive approach—getting involved when needed—to a proactive approach of getting involved beforehand and preparing the employee to win.

2. Teach Interaction

A very important factor in coaching is understanding what to coach. Rather than focusing only on product and industry knowledge, concentrate on polishing personal interaction—including body language, voice inflection and the transfer of positive energy. The most adept leaders have harnessed face-to-face communication. In baseball's World Series, the greatest players are still practicing the fundamentals, such as throwing and catching the ball. In business we must do the same, and prepare repeatedly throughout the duration of a career.

3. Practice Commitment

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by developing a practice programs but resist the urge to outsource this important component. Leaders need to be a part of their program. Team engagement and immediate results will help propel this into a full-blown commitment on everyone's part, making it even easier and more effective. The hardest part? A first and simple step is to implement weekly practice sessions that the leader mandates and runs. The key is to ensure that team members practice during the week so they can win on the weekends. In fact, similar to Little League sports, the level of priority placed on winning and the greater the competition, the more practices take place. Everything is serious and competitive in business because winning matters. Learning to practice is almost as difficult as learning any new skill. It will feel awkward, redundant, uncomfortable and hard at times, but, just like parents tell their kids, "If you want to be the best, then you have to practice." While social media and a litany of gadgets have streamlined our abilities to connect and interact, there will never be a substitute for stout communication skills. Focusing on these time-honored skills and building better teams in business follows the same principles of raising children. It requires a level of commitment and involvement that can be difficult for many people, and it also requires conflict and asks the leader to be less than popular on occasion. Remember, great coaches are coaches, not buddies. They should be respected by all team members and should be focused on making everyone—individually and collectively—better, more prepared and more successful, today and tomorrow.