Last year, I decided to get a second master's degree, this time in Corporate Communications. I attended a blended program, meaning I worked and went to school part-time (more like full-time, but who's counting), that was virtual through IE University in Madrid.
I had four reasons:
- Effective communication is more important than ever before, especially with the increasing adoption of technology. Today, all companies are technology companies. Chatbots use is on the rise, and natural language communication will continue to replace tapping and typing. How should talking to a computer about a company work? I wanted to better understand communication theories and ideas to better understand this.
- Every company I worked with treated crafting a message differently. It was hard to discern best practices. I figured by taking classes in this area, I'd get a solid baseline for constructing an effective message and what to consider while doing that.
- We live in a global world, but what does that mean? Yes, in the US we work with people in other countries, but often that means that the project is US centered - from meeting times to communication style. I wanted to broaden my understanding of the world.
- Learn how to speak to executives and understand what they value so I could sell to them directly. I wasn't getting the type of gigs I wanted to get for my business and expand it properly. I kept realizing that I didn't know how to speak to them. I had a number of ah-ha moments during the school year to change all that. And I know I don't think the same way anymore about business or projects.
It was exhilarating, exhausting, challenging, and one of the best personal growth experiences ever. Sure, it had its high and low points (I worked on over 9 papers in February alone) but I learned more than how to communicate more effectively.
- There are many factors that influence how we each see the world. I know, that sounds obvious, but it is something that we sometimes take for granted. Our country's government structures, national leadership, religion, values, perspective of what equality means - it all has an impact on our world experience. We say travel is important to understand another country's values and culture, but a 2 week trip doesn't immerse you into an environment where you can really understand a different life perspective and experience.
- Working in a global US company doesn't mean that you understand what it means to work with a global team. In other countries, the teams will rearrange their schedules to accommodate who pays their bills - that US company. By attending a program in Madrid, I got to experience what it's like to be part of a team not centered in my home country. It feels very different, but it is very humbling and mind expanding. Flexibility is key for this to work.
- Measurement is key to communication. I always knew this, but now I understand the value even more. Effective communication has a purpose. Before you craft a message, you need to define that purpose and if it isn't clear, then it won't do anything. I know that this is obvious, but many companies don't do this. It's shocking.
- Branding is the starting point for any company. If you don't have a strong brand, your company may have a hard time surviving. How you communicate that brand is even more important. If you don't communicate the identity of a company properly, creating great messaging or experiences will be difficult.
- Business matters, but people matter too. I've known this for years now, but it's always a good reminder when you work on a fantastic team and get solid results, what made those results.
- Being humble isn't a bad thing. I think Americans at times are addicted to fame. I got an earful a few times about the thought leadership movement in the US and how it can be nonsense - and they have a point. I've heard some thought leaders who get the mic provide inaccurate information to their listeners. It's shocking to hear the lies and misinformation that is spread on a daily basis.
Part of the challenge is the motives of these thought leaders - are they looking to help their audience? Or are they in it just for fame? (the ones in it for fame tend to be the ones who give the rest of us a bad reputation. I write my blog to help companies see content in a new way. I knew many thought leaders who genuinely want to help their audience. I respect and applaud them.)
If people read more and talked a little less, maybe we'd have more quality information in the world.
Had to share this video I found today, posted by a colleague on LinkedIn....it's exactly what my classmates and professors thought about this "thought leadership" thing. Not all of us are like this, but some out there want easy fame so they contribute to the mess.
- There's room in the world for formal education. I often hear business experts say that an MBA isn't necessary to succeed in business. That may be true, but man, I can now see how it helps. If you have an opportunity to get an MBA, do it. If you get an opportunity to get a master's degree of any sort, do it. But don't do it unless you have a clear purpose of what you want to get out of it. I think that's the challenge of formal education - you need to have a clear goal for doing it. In my case, I achieved all of my goals, and then some. I think in the US we could use some formality (I also think that in Europe, they could use some loosening up). Formality can help drive results. Too much is bureaucracy, and we already have enough of that.
Getting back to business as usual. I have missed writing my blog and working on thought leadership content. (Yes, I am one of those Americans who creates that stuff, but I like facts!). I have also missed reading for pleasure. I've started doing both again. I can't wait to share ideas!
In May, I will be giving a talk about listening.
Don't miss it!
I'll be at CXTalks on May 22.
I'm giving a 10 minute talk, "Listening with Empathy to Connect."
And don't be shy - use my discount code for 20% off: MARY20
This idea has been fueling a shift in how I present my material in general. More to come. Yes, a book is in the works. Revised training videos are in the works too.
Revise the Gearmark business model. More coming soon on that! I'm really excited where this is starting to go.
It's great to be back and I'm looking forward to everything coming up! Can't wait to hear from you!!