The nationwide lockdown forced entire industries to shift to a work-from-home model overnight. This switch forced people to change habits built over a lifetime and adopt new habits to adapt to changing times. One skill that has helped most professionals work better remotely is communication. In the tenth of our series of interviews with Harappa faculty, we asked communication expert Ravishankar Iyer about his lockdown learnings and the skills that will help people manage in these difficult times.

Ravishankar, a data-led storytelling expert who helps organizations tell their stories in a persuasive manner, tells us about the power of clear communication. He also shares a formula that helped him build his own communication skills. Read on.

Q. What is the one Harappa Habit—Think, Solve, Communicate, Collaborate, and Lead—that you have relied most on in this lockdown?

‘Communicate’ is the core habit that I continue to rely on. 

During the lockdown period, I have increased the frequency of communication with key work stakeholders–clients, blog readers, and connections on LinkedIn. 

Some of the specific ways in which I have relied on this habit are:

  • I have observed leaders and how they communicate in a crisis–and tried to glean lessons for laypeople. For instance, the initial set of speeches by the Prime Minister announcing the lockdown were interesting case studies for communication students.
  • I also ran a few webinars on this topic for various audiences.
  • Finally, I took the time on hand to complete a project that I had been working on for a year–40 stories from my life that I was sharing on LinkedIn.

The implication for young professionals: play to your strengths when it comes to critical skills, and use it to create differentiated outputs that can add value to others.

Q. If you were to recommend one Habit young professionals should hone in this period and the time to come what would it be? And why?

I would urge young professionals to hone their ‘Communicate’ habit.

I build my own skill by following what I call the ‘3R’ formula for thoughtful communication: Read, Reflect, and (W)rite.

1. Read: Read wide and read wisely–especially good nonfiction writing. Listen to engaging podcasts. Watch informative videos and critically acclaimed movies. If  your mind is fertile soil, then good content forms the seeds, water, sunlight, and nutrients that nourish it.

2. Reflect: But reading is incomplete without reflection. In the age of constant content bombardment, we get no time to think. No time to ruminate or ponder. Make sure you set aside some time (it could be a morning run, or cycle ride; or when you’re doing house chores) to reflect about your work. (Incidentally Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos do this while washing dishes!). It’s during reflection that the mind’s soil converts the inputs into lush produce.

3. (W)rite: …but what’s the point if the produce is left without harvesting? Cultivate a habit of writing, or creating some outlet for your thoughts. It could be blog posts, videos, podcasts or journaling. Writing immensely helps you clarify your thoughts. I love this quote by Flannery O’ Connor: “I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.”

Q. There is a lot of focus on lifelong learning, unlearning and relearning in the world of work today. What would you say have been the top learnings for you in this period? And what have you unlearned and had to relearn or adapt?

Since the lockdown, my trainings moved overnight from 100% classroom to 100% online. 

I struggled initially–because I just essentially ‘copy-pasted’ my classroom content online. But I realized that online is a very different mode and I had to completely rethink how I conduct my sessions. 

For example, instead of just asking questions to participants, I could run live polls using Mentimeter. I could conduct shorter, more spaced-out sessions, resulting in reflection and application between sessions. Also, I could get more participants to present their work (using the screen-share option) for me to provide immediate inputs (something which is logistically more challenging in a classroom scenario).

I did have to put some effort though–learn about new techniques, repurpose some of my content, and learn to talk with energy into a camera. But it was all fun and kept me on my toes.

And it all felt worth it, when a client remarked, “You know what, the online session you conducted this year almost seems more engaging than the classroom one you undertook last year!”

Read the other blogs in this series here and here.

One course you can pick up under the Communicate Habit during this lockdown is our Speaking Effectively course from Harappa Education. Develop your communication skills today by enrolling for our Online Learning Courses. Explore topics such as Importance of Writing Skills, Process of Writing, What is Report Writing & Types of Report Writing from our Harappa Diaries blog section to build your skills for workplace success.

Ravishankar Iyer was interviewed by Vrinda Prahladka who is a Senior Specialist in the  Curriculum Team at Harappa Education.