Becoming an effective communicator

One of the most valuable strengths to have as an actuary is great communication skills. In this article, Tim Lam outlines the importance of difficult professional conversations and how the upcoming YAP event can help you become an effective communicator. 

As a young actuary you might receive lots of messages about how to progress in your career, particularly around communication and influencing people.  It can be difficult to balance how you are perceived. For example, how do you balance being “pushy”, with or without substance, confidence, influence, responsibility or enthusiasm?  Challenging situations are unavoidable in the professional working environment and while we often feel that we understand how to approach the situation, results may not always be predictable.

Being prepared and working out how you can best navigate them will ensure you get the best outcome. Also, you are able to learn more about how to approach future such conversations. Examples include:

  • How to discuss career progress (or your perceived lack of it) with your direct manager.
  • How to let a client or manager know that you will not meet a deadline.
  • How to approach the relevant stakeholder on a project when you don’t know them.

For the next Young Actuaries Program (YAP) event What do I do about this? How to initiate a difficult conversation at work we have invited Jas Singh and Jenny Lyon from SKL to talk about these situations and how you can approach various scenarios to maximise the probability of achieving your desired outcome.

Jas and Jenny are both owners and founders of SKL. They are both Fellows with actuarial experience in financial services and significant recruitment experience. They aim to engage closely with their candidates and advise on long term career strategies so have given a lot of thought to these sorts of questions. In our upcoming session, Jas and Jenny offer a framework to help you think about how to approach such situations, explore case studies, and seek your input so we can engage in an interactive discussion – so bring some real-life examples with you!

Some things to think about in advance include:  

  1. What am I trying to achieve in the conversation – why am I asking for this/what is the real issue that needs to be addressed?
  2. What is my initial mindset – Fear? Confidence? Overconfidence? Arrogance? Are there behavioural barriers that are stopping me from delivering the message in an effective manner?
  3. What can I prepare, do I have credible evidence to back my request/suggestion?
  4. Am I just presenting a problem, or can I propose a solution?
  5. Have I thought about a clear structure and effective manner of delivery?
  6. What is my relationship with the individual I need to speak to, do I understand their perception of me and how can I build on this or change it in this discussion to improve my working relationship with them?
  7. Am I seeing this as an opportunity?
  8. Execution – how to successfully set up a discussion and deliver effectively. The key stakeholders are generally busy – getting a hold of them for an extended period to convey and discuss the key message can often prove to be difficult. Is there anything that can be done to move myself up their priority list? When should I give up and move on?  What I do practically need to prepare for the discussion?

 “What do I do about this? How to initiate a difficult conversation at work” will be held on Tuesday 23 October 2018 at The Forum, Actuaries Institute from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. REGISTER HERE

CPD: Actuaries Institute Members can claim two CPD points for every hour of reading articles on Actuaries Digital.