Man upskilling
24 Aug 2020


This is a guest article by Stephanie Bickel and Michelle Batko of Speak by Design.

“If you are not growing, you are dying.” These are harsh but true words in a pandemic. How do you adapt to the current circumstances? How do you remain valuable to the marketplace or your employer? How do you help your organization pivot and thrive?

Upskilling is the answer. People are excited about the opportunity to make our post-pandemic chapter, a better chapter.

Executive search consultants are craving exceptional virtual communication to influence Boards and guide CXO candidates. Investment bankers want skills for virtual networking and virtual business development.  Consultants who used to travel are committed to demonstrating that virtual engagements have the same impact if not more virtually to avoid having to travel in Q4 and maybe beyond.

How we make the case for more flexible hours, mobility, and work from home days?  Upskilling

How do we continue along our career track? Upskilling

How do our companies recover? By our upskilling

How do we upskill? The top ways to demonstrate your learning mindset and professional growth are through:

  1. Digitizing all that you can and then teaching others how to do the same
  2. Becoming exceptional at virtual communication
  3. Becoming a better writer with clear messages

1. Digitizing: Become a tech pro.

Ask questions, read articles, watch tutorials. These are the ways to get great with technology. The options are endless when it comes to all the resources we have virtually. It’s up to you to learn about them all to make every conversation and meeting worthwhile. You have to be flexible - you can’t be set in your ways as everything is changing around you.

Some ideas:

  1. Introduce slack to your team
  2. Send video explanations with Loom
  3. Bring fun into a Zoom session using games from

2. Becoming exceptional at virtual communication.

Become the gold standard for comfort at connecting virtually. Always turn your video on. It speaks volumes about your desire to connect when you do not. Currently, many individuals are choosing to communicate through audio calls and email over video. This hinders the human connection that we are all lacking during this time.

When you are able to see others “face to face”, you’re able to build a relationship and establish trust quicker. Our body language, gestures, eye contact, and voice are extremely impactful when the goal is to strengthen a relationship.

Some ideas:

  1. Dress up more than you typically would
  2. Ask about the other peoples’ backgrounds and try to make a personal connection
  3. Invest in a good camera for clarity and good lighting. Many cameras have a built-in light now
  4. Do a round of introductions – and make your own a standout!

3. Become an expert in written and oral communication.

Everyone’s time is precious right now. We have meetings back to back, things to take care of around the house, and somehow still leave time to take care of ourselves. It is vital that we learn to become more efficient, effective, and influential - verbally and in writing. Our messages need to be concise, our requests need to be clear, and our intentions need to be direct. Be generous with the information you share and the ideas that you put forth.

Some ideas:

  1. Aim to end meetings 5-10 minutes early
  2. Master the weekly check-in and check-out messages with your team
  3. Prepare a strong start and close for the meetings you lead
  4. Write a follow-up summary that is crisp and actionable after a meeting

Focus here first when working to re-skill and adapt during a pandemic. Remember to be agile and open to change.

About the Authors

Stephanie Bickel

Stephanie is the Founder and CEO of Speak by Design.  She created the Lead by Design methodology for all Speak by Design programming.  She recently launched Speak by Design University to help sustain the impact from their programs. Speak by Design has deep expertise launching new CEOs, coaching TED talks, preparing management team presentations to investors, and helping Sales professionals win new business.  

Their signature courses include: Presence, Presenting with Impact, Storylining, High Impact Meetings, 360 Leadership Communication, Handling Difficult Situations, and Trusted Advisor Training. Speak by Design help people become consistently compelling forces for their organizations.

Michelle Batko

Michelle Batko - Speak by Design

Michelle is a Leadership Communication Coach who has coached many professionals on how to effectively present to and interact with their clients, teams, and leaders. Her specialties include developing stronger executive presence, improving vocal variety, and increasing confidence. Michelle believes that the most beautiful thing you can wear is your confidence – in conversations, in work, in life, and in yourself. She works diligently to help clients reach their professional communication goals. 

Michelle has a BA in Communication Sciences from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a MS in Speech-Language Pathology from Northwestern University.

Want to take your upskilling efforts a step further? 

See courses available from Stephanie, Michelle, and the rest of the Speak by Design Team and get in touch to find out how they can help you reach your goals!

Learn more

Last updated: 24 Aug 2020

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