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Learning business communication – at a distance.

Brianna Pinto of UNC Kenan-Flagler

Brianna Pinto (BSBA ‘21), who plays as a midfielder for UNC Women’s Soccer, wrote this article for Professor Sharon Cannon’s management communication course.

After high school, I never would have imagined having to take another online-course again. However, coronavirus stifled those plans and brought me back to the impersonal distance learning that I loathed for years.

Even though I was forced to miss weeks or sometimes months of class at a time because of my soccer, remote learning proved to be a blessing in disguise because I learned how to make my teachers an integral part of my time-management learning curve.

While I was representing various youth national teams in high school, I dreaded having to tell my teachers that I would be absent, yet again. Sometimes I would procrastinate delivering this message until the last possible moment, in hopes of minimizing the time available for my teachers to react negatively. After multiple occasions of communicating about my upcoming absences on short notice, I discovered it only hurt me and made it harder for my teachers to create a plan to accommodate my needs.

As a third-year college student taking four remote learning classes, I reflected on my mistakes in the past and used them to my advantage as we transitioned from in-person to remote learning in fall 2020.

To effectively manage sports and remote-learning schedules, communicate with all parties involved to cultivate a network of people devoted to your success academically and athletically. Three principle elements of proper communication are:

  • Ensuring timely delivery
  • Setting expectations and fulfilling them
  • Crafting a clear and concise message

In the business world, time is everything. It is a resource that allows us to plan, coordinate and act accordingly and requires us to organize our lives in an efficient manner so we can complete all of our obligations by their due dates.

Within timeliness is the respect for other people’s schedules. Over the years, I have found that people often forget that professors have lives, too. If we want their help, we must make it as convenient as possible for them.

The primary way to ensure convenience is by delivering information as soon as possible. Not only does this communication strategy allow them the time to collaborate with you to create a plan that works for both of you, but it also gives room for unexpected changes. Rather than waiting to communicate that you will be absent until the day before your departure (like I did), effective business communication entails passing along information as soon as you receive it.

Notifying your professor only of your absence does not provide the details necessary to convince your professor to accommodate or excuse these absences. Setting expectations provides both parties with clarity about what they can expect from one another.

In the business world, both parties tend to consider what’s in it for me? Communicating expectations on both ends ensures that the give-and-take process will not be lopsided –resulting in both parties becoming equally invested in creating a middle ground.

While you present the professor more details about your availability to meet when you are away, the work you can commit to and the measures you will take to make up for the missed instructional time, the professor can confirm which details work for them or offer other alternatives. If the other person understands that you are committed to fulfilling the demands of their class (or their affairs in the business world), they are more likely to be receptive to your needs.

To build trust in your relationship with your professor, you must fulfill the expectations that you set beforehand. If you do not deliver on your promises in the business world, you will be deemed unreliable, which can have a negative impact on your reputation and future affairs.

When crafting messages, remember that action stems from directness. Directness is the golden mean between brevity and clarity because it entails providing enough information so the reader can easily interpret the main ideas.

Business communication thrives on conciseness and transparency because these components convey respect and prevent confusion. By writing concisely, you only share essential information, which saves your professor time, preventing the need to sift through a wordy message for its true purpose.

Concise writing has limits, however. Clarity ensures that you explicitly state your requests so your professor can assist you to the best of their abilities. When you are specific in business writing, you decrease the chance of ambiguity. As long as you are gracious in your requests, people are typically willing to assist you if you make their contributions as clear as possible.

While traveling the world to play the sport I love imposes greater demands on my time-management skills, remote learning has provided me the flexibility I need to excel in all aspects of life. Thanks to the unwavering support of my teachers and professors, I collaborated with them to find ways to maximize my academic potential.

By practicing proactive communication skills and learning valuable lessons over the years, I now look forward to involving my professors in my latest adventures. In fact, some of my favorite professors I have ever had, I’ve never met in person!

If this is your first year taking online courses, I intend for my advice to help you avoid the communication learning curve I experienced throughout my time taking online courses. By following these tips, you can make the remote learning environment feel a little more personal!