June is an actuarial working in a large Fortune 100 company. She was born in China but has been living in the U.S. for six years. She has worked for this company for two years in a rotational training program; at the end of the program, she will have to apply for a permanent job in a specific department within the company.
June felt comfortable speaking English with her colleagues and in private conversations. However, when sharing ideas in meetings, she felt unheard; people would move on without acknowledging her ideas. One time, a colleague used one of June’s ideas, and he received an enthusiastic response.
June also knew that to increase her profile in the company, she would have to engage with managers in other departments in informal situations. She felt that her attempts at small talk were met with confusion and didn’t result in the connection she wanted.
To secure a permanent position in her chosen department and to achieve her other career goals, June wanted to improve her communication skills.
The company sponsored June for Varallo International’s (VI) Business Communication Essentials course where June hoped to learn more about how to communicate clearly and appropriately in both informal situations and in business meetings.
The VI program included a one-hour weekly private session for four months, plus two follow-up sessions four months later. June was totally engaged and implemented her feedback and suggestions for improvement.
In one incident, June saw a manager in the hallway and began to explain a new data set she had been analyzing. She felt offended and confused when he cut her off to run to a meeting. June discussed the problem with her senior-level VI coach, Bina Dugan. Bina explained that hallway/water cooler conversations were often brief and casual. She might have better results if she set up an appointment with the manager. June followed up and in that more formal setting, the manager was quite receptive to her analysis and offered to share it with other managers.
In another example, June was invited to travel with her boss to a conference and was nervous about how to converse during the four-hour train ride to D.C. Bina helped her compile a list of appropriate topics for small talk, including sports. June felt great about the results and built a strong business relationship with her boss as a result of the trip.
In addition to building her confidence and learning about culturally appropriate conversation starters, June worked on specific aspects of accent modification. Specifically, when she used plural nouns or third person verbs, she wasn’t pronouncing the final [s]. While this was a sound-production problem, her errors were perceived as grammatical mistakes. June focused on completing her words, and improved her articulation. As a result, people are no longer paying attention to her language deficiencies but rather on her strong analytical skills.
For June, the training with VI helped her communicate more clearly and appropriately, which has increased her confidence. As a result, she is getting the recognition she hoped for and has received a full-time position in the department that she loves.