Full text of Nina Legath’s talk titled “The Power of Communication” at TEDxYouth@ISF conference. In this talk, she discusses the importance of communication in the workplace, and underlines the necessity of knowing how to communicate efficiently, in order to thrive in the working world.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Nina Legath – Head of Global Internal Communication, adidas
I believe the most important skill you can have is communication skills. And I admit I am biased, because I make my money with communication.
But think about why [ROIC] such as mine even exists in big companies. Communications is more important than ever, for businesses for sure, but also for us personally.
And today I want to focus more on the power of communications for us personally, and that has more to do with my passion than with my job.
So when I was a younger, my parents taught me the art of hard work. I studied, earned good grades and everyone was happy. Yeah, I had to present every now and then at school and at university, but it was never really the core of my activities. It was never what my success depended on.
Then I had to apply for a job, the interview processes and entered the working world, and I realized it was becoming more important to convey information than to no information. So communication, the way I communicated had a significant impact on my success.
Probably all of you are right now thinking about what to do with your future life and what to study and what to work, right? So let’s do a little thought exercise together, a time travel.
25 years from now, how will your work like look like? What you will you be doing? Can you imagine yourself? Will you sit at a desk? Probably not. Will you type? Probably not.
Let me give you some pointers, some technology developments that are already becoming apparent and shaping the world we live in. Big data will optimize our decision making. The artificial intelligence, in general, will completely transform the way we work, because all of the accounting tasks will be taken care of by machines with the highest levels of scalability and precision.
And all manual tasks will be taken care of by robotics and automation, and even performing actual surgeries… can you imagine? And I’m not saying don’t study medicine or don’t study finance; of course not. Because wherever machines take over part of the job, there is more possibility for the humans to add value in a different way.
But what is this value add? What I’m saying is that this value add part will have a lot to do with communication in any job.
So let’s say in the field of medicine and let me give you an example. Artificial intelligence will be able to perform the most accurate diagnose. A robotic surgeon will then perform the most precise and least invasive surgery.
And what will the human doctor be doing? She will take in the information and form a vision, a story. She will then share the story with the patient, right, and discussing options about next steps so that the patient can take decisions together with the doctor decisions, he or she can feel good about.
The doctor will address concerns and fears with the highest levels of empathy. In other words, the human doctor will communicate.
Yes, the way we communicate can be so impactful; it’s becoming more important to convey information and to charge information with meaning than to simply know information. You all know that; you grew up with Google and Wikipedia.
Facts are easily accessible, but the question is: how do we convey it to use the power of communications? And our whole economy is really transforming into a service-based one. If you think about it, when all manual tasks will be automated, the relationship-building tasks will be reserved for the humans, which is the most… which is you know relationship building is communication, is the most human side of communication.
And the question is really: what’s next, right? We are only scratching the surface right now, because when most of the operations are being automated, you will need strong visionary leaders that inspire these operations that shape and oversee them. And then you will need strong communicators that share this vision in the story with the communities that are impacted by it.
And those two roles, those two personas, the one that shares the vision and the one that communicates it, they don’t have to be two separate physical people. We are moving… we are transforming into a world where really traditional boundaries are completely blurring and competencies are converging. It’s really up to you what you make out of it.
Your generation can work off a white canvas. So how do we tap into all of these possibilities? And how do we use the power of communications for ourselves?
For you this is not a future scenario. You know that probably, but you are communicating all of the time, whether you talk with people, or you don’t, whether you send that email or you don’t. Your social media activities, whether you do them or not, you are sending a message. You cannot not communicate; you are going through your days communicating.
The question is what is the vision that we form? What is the meaning that we give to things? What is the story that we tell and how do we convey it to others? How do we enable others to make decisions? That’s the question.
So I think the first, the most important thing is really to become aware of it, and to communicate with purpose. Because if you don’t, you can create outcomes in your life that you don’t want. But if you start communicating the purpose, your power of communications will help you achieve the things that you want to achieve.
In my work as a Communications Manager and as a coach, I come across people so often that ask me for advice. And their concern is: how do I become more impactful? How do I position myself as a leader? And most of the time, almost 100% of the time I can guarantee you, it’s down to communication skills.
Every successful person has superior communication skills. So my case to use the following: we are living in a world of change at scale and the pace of this change is unprecedented in human history.
But what doesn’t change is the fact that we are all humans… humans with human needs. And one of these needs is meaning, and another one is connection. And both of them can be really achieved by communication.
So I haven’t given you any practical advice yet on how to improve your own communication skills. And really the goal for this talk for me was just to raise awareness and help you understand why it is so important.
But if I just can give you one piece of advice, it’s the one piece of advice that I always give the leaders that I work together with, my mentees and my friends, it’s the following advice:
It’s not about you. Communication is not about you. We naturally start to think about ourselves when preparing a communication. What do I need to say? What do I want to say? What do I want to achieve? And I’m not saying that these things are not important but where you can really make the difference is… are the elements that focus on others.
If you only start focusing on others, then your communications impact will be boosted to an entire new level.
So ask yourself the questions: what do they know about the topic, the people that I’m talking to? What do they need to know? What are their inspirations? And what are their emotions connected to the topic? This last one is very important because it speaks to that human side again.
And it’s the thing that you can learn when you’re face to face. It’s the easiest thing because then you just look people in the eyes and start to tune in to what they feel and think about them rather yourself.
So in closing, let me just stress again. Communication is about meaning and is about connection, both of which are human needs that will persist whatever the technology changes are. And if you only remember that and focus on the purpose of your communication and start to think a little bit more about the others versus yourself, then the power of your communication will carry you through your life and help you and others.