Women in Banking Conference Reactions: Connectional Intelligence

Communication is a fundamental part of humanity, but it does not always come easy. What’s more, a global pandemic has shifted our communication paradigms and shown opportunities for growth.

Session two of the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s Empowering Women in Banking Conference took this issue to task with the featured program by Erica Dhawan. As a celebrated author on the subject, she has a masterful grasp of communication best practices.

How do we create a better normal?

Connecting intelligently is not easy, especially with the context of technology and upheaval of the old “normal.” Erica Dhawan presented excellent examples of how a chat or text feed gets easily misconstrued or wholly misinterpreted.

On average, each employee wastes an astounding four hours per week on poor communication. “We misunderstand quickly,” says Erica Dhawan. “The answer is a critical skill – connectional intelligence.”

Connectional intelligence can unlock new and unrealized value by maximizing the power of networks and relationships.

Connectional intelligence has five fundamental principles.

  • Brevity creates confusion – the pressure to communicate quickly leads to shortcuts and a lack of context. Be ultra-clear.
  • “Communicate your mind” mindset – don’t assume others can read your tone. What is the ask? What is the priority level? Visual cues go unnoticed on most video calls.
  • Hold your horses – thoughtfulness over hastiness. The pressure to communicate quickly pushes the inverse to the forefront. Introverts need time to process ideas before sharing.
  • Assume the best intent – don’t let the perceived tone in text correspondence override giving others the benefit of the doubt.
  • Find your voice – leverage new digital assets to enable everyone to find their voice. Think of introverted and extroverted personalities and work to overcome “group-think.”

When it comes to working as a strong team, there are principles to guide that communication as well.

  • Value visibly – value time, inboxes, and schedules. Get in and out of meetings on time – maybe end them five minutes early. Make body language explicit when possible.
  • Communicate carefully – reading and writing with a careful touch is critical. Think twice, send once. Keep meeting invites limited and use meeting summaries when there is cursory knowledge relevant to non-participants.
  • Collaborate confidently – today, this means saying what you do and doing what you say. Half of the answer or endless iteration cycles are not confident collaborations. Can that meeting be kept to 15 minutes? Set norms on your team.
  • Trust totally – Give the benefit of the doubt. This is not easy, but it is essential. Create virtual water cooler moments, show vulnerabilities, and show your humanity.

Each point serves as a critical building block to forming solid relationships and connections within teams, whether the communication is in person or virtual.

Connecting thoughtfully and wholeheartedly in a digital world will certainly take more focus and effort than before. Choosing the proper channels for the conversation and clearing the filter through which you receive communication is critical in these situations. Bringing light to these nuances, however, is the best way to overcome some of these obstacles!

Ami Myrland, SVP Chief Financial Officer of Capitol Bank, attended the seminar and shared her reaction. “Tuesday’s presentation on Connectional Intelligence was another great one!” said Ami. “My biggest takeaways in this one had to do with communication and connection.”

“There was a lot of focus on the intent of the message and making sure that you are clear with your communication. This feels so important during times of less in-person communication and more technology-focused communication. There are no facial expressions to rely on or context with the other party to go from. Instead, the message is received in the context of whatever the person receiving it is going through. Often, it is taken out of context, and then the message takes on a different meaning than intended.”

One particular call out from the session struck a chord with Lerdahl’s Laurie Richards “knowing when to switch the medium – for example from a text or chat to a phone call. So much is lost when you do not have facial or voice cues to understand the intent. Switching the medium allows you more of an opportunity to catch these cues, ask questions and avoid misunderstanding and a lot of time spent trying to determine what was meant.”

Check back next week for more reactions from the continuation of the Women in Banking Conference. Have a great week – talk soon!

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